Why Kindles aren’t (too) bad

Everyone seems to have a very strong opinion about whether reading e-books, most popularly on Kindles and other e-readers, is good or bad. The debate seems to centre around Kindle vs Physical Books, with the main arguments normally consisting of weight (aka, the ability to carry many books on Kindle instead of just one or two physical books), feel, authenticity, and preserving the bookshop.

As a bookseller, I have my own opinions on this topic, but as a reader I have even more – put together, there’s really only one sentence that I think really sums up my thoughts on whether we should use Kindles or Physical books and that is:

Reading is reading.

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Before starting my work in a bookshop, I predominantly used my Kindle. It was light, it was easy, and books were far, far cheaper. I hadn’t picked up a proper physical book in a long time, and the books I typical read were more romance and whimsical, with no real weight to them (pun intended, although that was a pretty poor one). I still classed myself as a bookworm and voracious reader, but it wasn’t until I started working in a bookshop that I realised how much it felt like I missed out on. My first day of work, I walked into the staff room to see everyone reading proof copies of A Little Life by Hanya Yanigihara, which of course I then picked up and read (review here). Not to sound too cheesy, but this book honestly changed my life, and completely changed the way I read books. All these books I’d read on Kindle couldn’t even hold a candle to this novel – because whilst you can get all sorts of books on e-readers, I tended to buy the cheapest, which didn’t always mean they were the best quality. For my first year of work, as you can see on this blog, I continued to read on my Kindle, but also began to read more and more physical books, and really from the beginning of 2017 I’ve barely used my Kindle.

For me, it felt like my love for books and reading had be reignited. When a customer comes in and talks about buying all these books they see on their Kindle, I usually shake my head and tut. “It’s the independent bookshops you’re killing!” I’ll tell them with a laugh, as they sheepishly grin. And whilst this holds truth, and whilst I still believe that Amazon is the devil in the book world, I don’t think we should discourage the use of Kindles, e-readers, and other ways of accessing e-books.

As I said earlier, e-books are usually far cheaper than physical books. For 99p, someone can download many different books straight onto their phone or computer. In this age of technology, there are so many ways someone can access reading – and no matter what, I stand by my opinion that reading is reading, and no form of reading should be discouraged. Whilst older generations may wag their fingers at youngsters reading books on their phones, what they’re doing is not discouraging using phones to read books, but reading entirely. Kids may be more attracted to shiny gadgets over paper (and what a generalisation that is, a stereotype that everyone uses), but what should that matter if they’re reading? For them, it means they may well pick up the new Percy Jackson or Roald Dahl or even Dickens, but will read it on their phone instead of buying a physical copy. For many, they can’t afford to buy books and don’t have access to a library, so to have a more painless, easy way to access literature is a godsend.

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I joke around a lot about Amazon, threatening to disown members of my family who buy physical books off there (and I hold by that threat, no family of mine buys physical books off Amazon without incurring my wrath), but what they have managed to do is bring a new dimension to reading. I for one am a huge fan of audiobooks, something which I would never have dreamed of investing my time in before audible became available to download on my phone.

Reading is reading, and whether someone is reading from a huge tome, a computer, a phone or a Kindle, no one should be discouraged from unlocking these many worlds that books bring to us.

Rant over.

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July Wrap Up

July was not a good month for several reasons (head over to my personal writing blog for more info https://alwayslovetowrite.wordpress.com/ ), and so I had a terrible reading month. About halfway through July for personal reasons, I didn’t really feel motivated to do much at all, including reading. I was so proud that I’ve been able to keep up with posting at least 2 or 3 times a month on both of my blogs this year, but that all went down the drain in July. Anyway, let’s jump into not only the books that I actually read, but that I started reading – yeah, it was one of those months.

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So the first book I started was The King Must Die by Mary Renault which was for my dissertation, and I had been reading it for a few weeks and hadn’t even managed to get halfway so I set it aside to try again another time. I’m not sure why, really – the writing is very well done and I love the classics-elements, but for some reason it just didn’t hook me. Perhaps if I get further that will change, but for what I read I wasn’t interested in the characters and didn’t really connect with them. Instead of coming home and wanting to read, I would think that I’d have to read that book so ended up not reading and doing something else. So concludes my second excuse.

I’m currently reading, and still haven’t finished, two other books. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and a manuscript sent over from a publishing house I’m interning at next week (ah!) to read through. It’s been difficult to find time to read these two the past week, what with emotions, full-time work, and the need to sleep. I’m happy to say though that Fates and Furies is helping to get me out of this reading slump.

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Now onto the list of short, not necessarily good, ebooks I downloaded due to my guilt of not reading anything but wanting to read something so mindless it didn’t matter that there were often grammar mistakes amongst bad writing. It’s my guilty pleasure, leave me alone.

Idol by Kristen Callihan was one of the better ones that I read, with some great witty lines and overall good fun. Then it was Stealing Home by Nicole Williams which I also lost interest in halfway through but then it picked up a bit by the end. Wicked by Geissinger  which was, agian, easy to read and good fun.

The final two were polar opposites – and one of them I’m counting as a proper book as I would have bought the physical copy had I been more patient and not buying it on kindle as soon as I could. This would be Torn by Jennifer L Armentrout, one of the authors that I immediately buy when I see a new release. I loved the first in the series, and I read this one in a single sitting and did enjoy it, but decided I preferred the first more – even though I read it two years ago. The final book I read, however, was called My Clarity by M. Clarke as someone recommended it. I had to skim read most of it due to lots of over-explaining and not great writing and really had to force myself to finish it. Not much fun at all.

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That means that my count of books this month is five books, although only one ‘proper’ book counted – I really need to find a new word, I don’t mean proper I mean physical copy of a book that isn’t a flick. Anyway, this means my book count goes up by a measly one to 35/50 – and I think I may stop counting the kindle flick total and just focus on this one! Here’s hoping to a better August.

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.

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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’.

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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!

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April Wrap Up

I keep making excuses about the amount I’ve read and I keep on wondering why that is – making excuses, I mean. What should it really matter if I’ve read eight books in a month or just one? For me, ideally, I want to read as many books as possible because I love reading and there are so many books I’m desperate to read that only finishing one or two makes me a bit of a grump. At the moment I’m buying more books than reading, and I blame my dissertation reading for that entirely – I’ve had to go on two separate occasions to buy books for my dissertation, and a third this weekend, but just buying books for my dissertation is a bit sad so I tend to buy a ‘nice’ book alongside them. So long my money, it was nice having you for the short time I did.

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First book that I finished this month was The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, which I found to be a good debut. A contemporary, young adult, with interesting characters and a twist (if you can call it that) I did not see coming. In fact, I had to reread that page over again because my mind just couldn’t quite contemplate what was going on, and then I felt down for the rest of the day. A slightly darker book, and definitely not happy-go-lucky, it definitely has things to say and says them well. My only gripe was the ending, as everything seemed to be tied up a bit too nicely and was a bit anticlimactic after the rest of the book.

Then we have two kindle books, written by Kristen Ashley who is such a great writer for these reasons: they’re all fast-paced, packed with action, and are long. Most Kindle books I buy are for pure escapism – I’m not looking for intellectual masterpieces, I’m looking for fun, light-hearted reading. Yet I hate it when Kindle books are just so short it feels like a waste of money, even if I only spent 99p. So I picked up Sebring and Bounty by Ashley, and they were both sweet and lovely in their own ways. Overall would probably give them three stars.

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Then we have one last book, which almost ended up being two but I finished the second on the 1st May. The book that I did finish in April was The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I didn’t know that this was actually a book for a very long time, as it used to be one of my favourite films as a child growing up. Reading it for the first time as an adult was such a wonderfully nostalgic experience for me, and I loved it. There was some brilliant sections that I don’t even remember from the film; copious self-reflexive, self-referential scenes, such as one character saying to the other ‘you’re in the story with the rest of us now, and you must go with it’. It was beautiful, lovely, and full of surprising wit. The character of the unicorn is just so well thought out, her lack of humanity emphasised because, hello, she’s not human. Just a marvellous read, and I don’t even care that I’m biased.

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That brings me to 19/50 on the book front, and 30 in total. Not my best month, but it may not be my worst – May is exam hell, April was essay hell. June though? I have high hopes.

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

January Wrap Up

I actually read a ton of books last month, and although some are a bit ‘cheaty’ I’m still bloody proud. I’m having two different tallies, as my main goal is to read 50 books – but in my head, by 50 books I mean I want to read 50 proper books and not count the quick, easy-to-read, often-one-day kindle reads that I usually get for free or for until £2. So Goodreads is my ‘proper 50 book’ record and I have a little ‘what i read’ book (thanks to the beautiful December Owlcrate box) which I write down everything, warts and all.

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In the month of January, I read 6 *ahem* proper books and another 2 kindle reads on top of that. Now I say 6, but really it’s more like 4 and a half – first of all because one of the 6 was very small and another I merely finished in January, whereas in reality I read the vast majority of it in December. Oh well, according to Goodreads it counts (and on that note, you can find me on Goodreads at http://goodreads.com/Stammydodger).

So the first book I finished in January was the beast that is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – a full review of this will either be popping up on this blog or on a friend’s website very soon! To sum up my thoughts: it was beautifully heartbreaking. If you follow me on Instagram @Stammydodger (so much plugging today, it’s not true), you will have seen the various photos when I finished the book and the note a friend wrote me whilst drunk to help me deal with finishing it. It was heartbreaking and it gutted me, yet I’m so glad that I stuck with it and managed to finish. A book has never felt so powerful to me before, and I completely understand the concept that characters are the ones who drive the plot. In all honesty, I couldn’t tell you the plot of this book outside the fact that it follows these four friends and their lives. Five stars, no doubt.

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After that, I wanted something easy to read and decided on The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, which ended up being kind of sad and bittersweet as well! Alas, a very sweet and lovely book to read, one that I’ve been meaning to read ever since my dad bought me a copy when I was a young teen. I awarded it four stars.

Now for the first Kindle book of the year, called The Score by Elle Kennedy, which was a light-hearted, easygoing romantic comedy which I gave a relieved-it’s-not-sad three stars.

Following that was Waterstone’s rediscovered classic of the month A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, which I also gave three stars – but a very different kind of three stars to The Score. See, I find it very very very difficult to rate books against each other, so in my head I rate them according to their category. If I were to talk about style and sophistication of writing, these kindle books I gobble up would be 1-2 stars with Hemingway at 5, but alas, that’s not how I work. Moveable Feast is very beautifully written, a non-fiction set in Paris after the war, but the man is just an arse. Never have I read something where there is name-dropping on what feels like every other page.

Then we get to another kindle read, Hollywood Dirt by Alessandra Torre which I’m still not 100% sure about. There were a few isolated scenes that, on their own, were very good and fun to read, but the relationship between the two main characters just never seemed to work in my head. There’s a very good way to do the Frenemy trope, but it wasn’t within this book. In all honesty, there were a few times I wanted to give up with this book as it felt quite unnatural and uncomfortable, but still an ok read to wind down. And really, that’s the kind of book I download on my kindle – something that is easygoing, not difficult to read, and I can just relax.

Now for The Martian by Andy Weir – and I see what all the fuss is about. I was going to post a review for this, but I’ve decided I’d like to see the film first to see how they manage to transfer the brilliance of the book into film. What a fantastic read, five stars without a doubt, with a surprisingly hilarious narrator yet packed with scene after scene of action.

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One of my university reads now, Turkish Embassy Letters by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and I am unashamed to say that I did indeed picture Lady Mary from Downton Abbey travelling with a husband around Turkey because, really, it made for a much more interesting read. I’ve never read any travel writing before, so don’t even ask me why I’m doing eighteenth century travel writing, but I still found it very interesting.

Finally we get to the last book of January, and what a book, Uprooted by Naomi Novik which I absolutely adored and will definitely be posting a full review for. I always forget how much I love fantasy, despite it being the genre I read the most, and this appealed to me to no end. I mean, one of the main characters is called ‘The Dragon’ – how could I not like it? I read it in three nights – literally, three nights, as I stupidly started it before I went to sleep and ended up reading until the early hours of the morning, only putting it down to get some kind of rest before work. There were a couple of elements that made me lean towards four stars, but I can’t help it, I just love it too much to not give it five stars.

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That brings me to 6/50 for this challenge, and a total 8 books for this year. I highly doubt February will be as successful, considering the addition of university work and reading of articles that I can’t count as books along with essays (oh man), but I’m pretty chuffed with my 2016 reading so far. Not sure if any month can beat A Little Life, The Martian, AND Uprooted, but I’m willing to try.