June Reading Wrap Up

June is always the month I look forward to the most. In my mind, June is the perfect month – halfway through the year, not too far in that you can’t change how the year is going and also far enough that whatever you’ve done so far doesn’t mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. June is summer, sun, beaches, lazy mornings, salads for lunch that you actually choose to have because anything warm is a huge ‘no no’. For me, June also means my birthday, again perfectly in the middle so I have a little wait when it hits June 1st but also not too long. Most importantly, June is the month for sitting outside with a book, jumping from reading in the sun to scurrying back to the shade because your poor, english skin is unused to such weather.

This June, I did pretty darn well when it came to books – and I base that solely on the first book that I read, no, that I conquered, because ‘read’ is too light a word for completing the masterpiece that is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. WHAT a book. It’s been on my TBR so long that I almost don’t recognise the list without that title on there. An incredible re-imagining of what ancient gods would be like in the 21st century, and which new gods have been created to worship over time. This in a fantastic road-trip esque romp through the US, leading to the battle between old and new – with plenty of twists and turns throughout. Gaiman once again proving to be an incredible storytelling.

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After that, I was very easily swayed by a lot of friends in my decision to pick up HeartburnI by Nora Ephron. This was an unexpected gem, and one that I truly enjoyed. Bound in the new Virago Classic covers, this gorgeous looking book is, as the author prefaces, a novel/memoir/nonfiction/fiction journey. An examination of the days around the fallout of her second marriage, Nora tells the story with new names and a few reimaginings, but at the heart is Nora herself. The more I try to describe it, the worse I become at explaining exactly what this book does, but I recommend it all the same.

Whilst I like to think of June months as hot moments in the sun reading, the truth is I spend most of my week at work and do most of my reading on my commute. As I’m sure many can relate, the tube is so disgustingly unbearable in summer that trying to focus on some lovely chunky book that you can sink into, I can barely concentrate on a few lines before thinking ‘god, it’s bloody hot in here’. This is why the next two books I decided to read were two more of the Penguin Modern Mini Classics.

The first I decided to pick up was The Skeleton’s Holiday by Leonora Carrington. A small bind-up of some of her very short stories, this was an enjoyable read and perfect for dipping in and out of. They made me think of small vignettes rather than explored ideas, just a glimpse of a story without more meat to it, but enjoyable all the same. A couple I truly loved and would read again, but others definitely felt like they went straight over my head.

The second mini, and last book I read in June, was The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson. If I quite liked The Skeleton’s Holiday, then I absolutely loved The Missing Girl. This has definitely convinced me to pick up a Shirley Jackson, and I definitely plan to do so when Halloween is approaching later on this year. Creepy and unsettling, this different stories were all expertly told and addictive, ones that you just have to devour (before they devour you).

And that was my June! July is already off to a flying start for me, mainly because I started off with a couple of fantasy books to get my reading juices flowing again, so I look forward to telling you all about them next month.

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May Reading Wrap Up

And just like that, we’re approaching the half-way mark for 2018. Mad, exciting, worrying, and ever so slightly terrifying, this year has flown by – which I know I probably say every year, but at least I’m consistent.

Reading wise, May has been my best yet with 5 books devoured. The first of which was particularly monstrous, as I finished the Laini Taylor Trilogy with Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Breathtakingly creative, this series has been one that is as inspiring as it is impressive. There are moments of hilarity as well as heart-wrenching sadness, with characters that are diverse, charming, and well-crafted. Laini Taylor has had be won over as an author since reading Strange the Dreamer last year, and I’m so glad I decided to read this imaginative, fantastical series.

Somewhere during my reading of Dreams of Gods and Monsters, I went to an incredible talk by Louise O’Neill, an author who manages to deliver books that punch you in the gut and leave you reeling, wanting to change the world. You can see my review of Asking for It here, a book that I’ve thought about often since finishing, so I knew I had to pick up her latest book The Surface Breaks. A feminist retelling of ‘The Little Mermaid’, this treasure of a book is one I’d recommend to anyone in their early teens – as I wish I had had it when I was that age. Closer to the original story rather than the Disney version, this tale is of a young girl who is paraded around as a commodity and something to possess rather than an individual with her own voice, her body something to be used and decorated and belonging to the men around her. This is a story of her reclaiming her body and her voice, despite losing it. The Sea Witch is an incredible character, one who I want to have her own story, and never before is it made so painfully clear that the heroine goes from one abusive relationship to the next, her life dictated by the men she tries to love, until she finally wakes up and sees the world for what it is. Buy it for your daughters, nieces and sisters, and especially buy it for your sons, brothers and nephews. A powerful, important book.

After thoroughly enjoying the new Marvel film, I decided to keep that love going by picking up Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. He is such a clever writer, and more and more I find a more suitable title for him is wordsmith. He crafts sentences and stories in a way that sweep you to another place, and definitely makes his mark on these myths – some well-known, and others less so. I honestly could have read this in one sitting, but managed to pace it out with various tube-journeys. Would highly recommend to those who are new to Norse mythology, and even old hands who want to revisit the grand stories told in a different style.

Clearly not over my onslaught of fantasy, after that I delved into Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I’ve seen this book several times over the last few years, and always thought it would be something I’d enjoy (hello, dragons). A very different kind of fantasy book, this one is set in an old-fashioned world and written in a language to reflect this setting. It’s a world of court and dragons, and a girl stuck between the two worlds. Well-told, this was definitely a slow-burner for me but definitely worth the wait.

Then finally, I read ‘The Custard Heart’ and other stories by Dorothy Parker, all wrapped up in the new beautiful Vintage covers. Along with two other tales, ‘The Custard Heart’ was a well-told short story with a strong female lead and interesting side-characters. Each had a loud, boisterous heroine and tackled various themes and topics. Whilst they didn’t have my heart soaring, I did enjoy them as short reads and am glad to have had a taster for Dorothy Parker’s writing style. A great way to finish off the month of May.

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April Reading Wrap Up

We’re already past the halfway point for May, but seeing as I’ve been so behind on updating my blogs, my April wrap up is happening now. I haven’t really had the inspiration to blog much recently, but luckily that hasn’t extended to my reading.

In the month of April, I finished reading 4 books – the first of which was The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, a mammoth of a book that took up most of my March reading time. I truly enjoyed it – the writing style was beautiful, the world perfectly crafted, and such interesting characters. However, I wanted just a little bit more from it (which isn’t what I thought I’d say about that beast of a book). Despite it’s length, I felt some of the characters didn’t get enough time to be developed. As I don’t want to spoil it, all I can say is that there were certain characters who were set up fantastically, but didn’t really have much of an ending or story-arc. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one, and hope that the un-finished stories of the characters that I felt deserved more are merely indications of further novels dedicated to them.

After that, I went into full fantasy mode starting with Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Illuminae Files series, and the final instalment was not exception. It had me on the edge of my seat, in denial half of the time and in pure disbelief for the rest of it. Fast-paced, action-packed, and full of life, laughter, and such brilliantly created characters, this is a sci-fi series I’d recommend to everyone. One page can have you sniggering, and the next moment you’re tearing up and cursing the authors. This series also has the added impact of the non-prose led narrative, the story told instead through accounts, images, recorded conversations, and other various pieces of information to create the ‘files’. I already miss this series and its unique way of telling a story, and can only hope that these authors collaborate more in the future.

Next, I listened to everyone, falling to peer pressure (and I am so glad that I did) to pick up Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. Clearly I wasn’t ready to let go worlds such as those created in the Marvel film Black Panther, and this book definitely filled that void. Similarly fast-paced, the world-building was stunning and had such a action packed plot that I could barely catch my breath from one scene to the next. This is fantasy at its best, with challenging characters, adventure tales that keep you guessing, and a world you want to sink into. I loved it.

The final book I read in April was The Bone Season, the first book in a series by Samantha Shannon. I’ve been so intrigued by this author and her writing, and I’m glad that I picked up The Bone Season. This is definitely a book devoted to world-building, set in a dystopian world that has an alternate history with the addition of people with certain abilities. In the end, I really enjoyed the writing and the storyline, the world clearly heavily developed and researched. My only issue was that, whilst it was flawlessly researched and hugely developed, the first third of the book felt like an information-dump. An overload of facts and points and info that, frankly, I couldn’t keep up with. I’d read snippets during commutes only to have to go back and re-read the next time I picked it up. Whilst I enjoyed the book, it felt like a battle before I could be fully immersed into the story. Still, it has definitely not put me off reading more from this clearly talented author.

So all in all April was a good month, filled with fantastical stories and brilliant characters that I’m sure I’ll want to go back to and re-read one day. May so far has been a similarly good month, and equally filled with plenty of fantasy. Let the days continue to be warm and sunny, so I can continue to laze about and read in the park on my weekends.

January Reading Wrap Up

Buckle up kids, it’s the first reading wrap up of 2018. I’ve set myself a target of 45 books on Goodreads, but I’m not planning to get so caught up in numbers this year – instead, I want to connect with the books I read more. I’ve already started writing my mini 2018 book journal to keep track of what I read and what I think as I’m reading it. So far, so good, and I’m looking forward to what this year will bring. For now, a summary of what January brought me.

First up was Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor, the second book in her trilogy which I am thoroughly enjoying. Since finishing it, I’ve decided to save the third and final instalment for a little bit so that I don’t have the same problem I had last year when reading series in one go, and become bored. I think I enjoyed this sequel more than the first, or at least I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the first half of book one. Laini Taylor is an incredible storyteller, and she somehow makes every book seem unique with new ideas and unthought of tales, which makes reading even more enjoyable. If you’re looking for something fantastical, this is the series for you.

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To make sure that I didn’t go from one fantasy to the next and have some variety in what I read, next I picked up Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake. I really enjoyed this collection of his poems, and it’s definitely made me want to keep discovering more poets and their different styles. A strange reading experience, as although I’ve never sat down and read any Blake before other than snippets, I wasn’t expecting to know a lot of his works. Yet so many of his poems triggered so many different memories, knowing that I’d heard snippets and refrains of his before now. As someone who feels like they don’t know that much about poetry, I truly enjoyed reading Blake.

Then, my guilty pleasure of the month, Brave by Jennifer L Armentrout. I adored her books as a teenager, which managed to blend fantasy with comedy with the pure fun that exists in teenage literature. Whilst her books are now classed as Young Adult, I’m so glad that they have that element of fun that make reading her books such a delight. It’s interesting to see the development not only of her writing but her ideas, as I’ve noticed the darker themes she has taken on over the years in her work – I, for one, think she does it fantastically well, especially as she still incorporates laughter and lightness in her stories.

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My fourth and final read of the month was my first piece of non-fiction of the year, and what a good one it was. Bitch Doctrine by Laurie Penny was utterly wonderful, and I’m so glad that I’ve made a pledge to read as much non-fiction as possible this year. Each chapter of Bitch Doctrine felt like a rallying cry, and I wanted to answer every one. I wanted to discuss this book with everyone, and I nearly did. Penny manages to tackle so many different ideas and themes, and not once do you feel like any point they make lacks substance or depth. What I especially appreciated was that this was by no means a ‘white feminist’ book, and instead made such an effort to look at intersectional feminism, and how race, gender, sexual orientation, and more comes into play – and why each of them have feminism in common. Strong arguments, persuasive points, and just brilliant writing – this is definitely a book that I’ll remember.

And those are my January 2018 reads! I’m currently reading my second ever Ali Smith novel, and also have such a huge tower of a TBR pile that I’ve given up being daunted by it. I’m so excited to start all of these wonderful books, and my only concern is that I won’t be able to get to them all this year.

A good problem to have, I think.

December Reading Wrap Up

Well we made it – only a few hours to go and then it will be 2018. It’s been one hell of a year and I’ve read some fantastic books, but before I write about my top books of 2017, here is my December Reading Wrap Up.

First off, I finally finished the Northern Lights series with The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. An incredible finale to such an amazing series, which was far more complex and richer than I had anticipated. The first book was your classic fun-loving fantasy adventure, but over the course of the sequels it morphed into this fantastical essay about religion and life, with very strong ties to Milton’s Paradise Lost. I’d recommend this to people of all ages, and I’m so glad that after a short break I was able to get back into the series with such excitement.

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After so much fiction, I decided I needed some non-fiction to give my imagination a rest and challenge my mind a little. I picked up Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, a memoir that looks at gender, her marriage, and motherhood. A truly brilliant piece of literature, and I want to encourage so many people to pick up this little gem. Filled with insightful thought and intelligent notions, this truly encapsulated the themes perfectly.

Clearly after that I was craving fantasy again, as I whizzed through Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I adored her book Strange The Dreamer, so I was expecting to enjoy this immensely – I just didn’t anticipate how quickly I’d get through it. Whilst I found the first half more engaging than the second, it definitely set up the world and had me desperate for more. I’ve already read half of the sequel, which I plan to finish early 2018 and pick up the final instalment soon after.

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Finally, I finished off the year with the Queen of Roman History, Mary Beard, and her new novella Women & Power. Short but definitely not sweet, this book gets right down to the nit and grit of our past responses to women and their association with power. It definitely could have been a whole novel, and I hope one day she uses this as a starting point for such a piece of literature, but this was the perfect size to incite the mind and get my blood boiling. Once again, I would highly recommend.

And that was 2017. I’ve ticked off another feminist book, a series I’ve started, a blue cover, and a book from my TBR. I’m so happy with how my 17 challenges have gone so far this year, and only two weren’t completed. The 4 Classics goal was almost completed, but I made the mistake of listening to my 4th classic Bleak House on Audible, so I still have a long way to go. The other challenge that is left uncompleted is the character with my name, but I’m not too fussed about that.

  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

 

I already have a few challenges in mind for 2018, and whilst I’m not going to do 18 challenges to mimic this year, I’m certain that it will keep me busy. So far, my goal is to read more non-fiction (for every 2 fiction books, I’d like to read a non-fiction book) and I’m also hoping to read a lot, if not all, of Virginia Woolf’s books. I’ve read so many extracts from them, but never read one cover to cover, so that is my main goal for 2018.

I’m sure I’ll think of other challenges along the way, but for now I’m going to sit back, relax, and enjoy the last moments of 2017. So Happy New Year everyone, and may your 2018 be filled with books!

Reading Slump/November Reading Wrap Up

November has probably been the best month I’ve had of this year in terms of happiness and life goals, but was by far my worst month for reading. Whilst those two statements by no means hold any correlation – aka I was not happy because I wasn’t reading, and in fact my only source of discontent this month was that I couldn’t really read much – it was so beneficial to my reading goals to have a break.

Through the month of November, instead of reading on the tube every day and before I went to bed, I was writing in an attempt to write 50,000 words in one month – something which for the first time ever I managed to do. It’s amazing in retrospect what we make time to do, and it was a great chance for me to see just how much I could do in a short space of time. Whilst I love writing and still adore the idea of one day publishing a book, at this point in my life it isn’t something I’m pursuing full time. Instead, I want to be reading all I can whenever I can, which is why my commute time and pre-bed routine has returned to reading, reading, reading.

In October, I was also in quite the reading slump toward the end of the month. Whilst I had been loving the Pullman series, having finished The Subtle Knife and diving straight into The Amber Spyglass, I found that they were so dense and intense that it was too much to go straight from one to the next. Having two chunky books in the same world meant that I wasn’t reading as much, and going straight from the end of book two full of action and plot twists into book three which started off with descriptions and setting up the story, the change in pace threw off my reading burst. November gave me a break from reading which I didn’t know I needed.

It got to mid-November and I found that I was actually truly missing reading, but knew I wouldn’t be able to fit in a whole novel amidst typing out almost 2000 words every day. So I picked up a small collection of poems by Keats, the one thing that I read front to back in November, and truly enjoyed it. Small enough not to bog me down with pressure of finishing it in time, and beautiful enough that it only inspired me further, I found that I was counting down the days to get back into reading.

One thing that NaNo helped me see was that you can so easily get bogged down with plans and goals, something which sometimes the challenge of reading 50 books in a year can do to me. Having this time out has only benefitted me, shown that I’ve picked up The Amber Spyglass again and am now racing through it and enjoying it so much more.

 

October Reading Wrap Up

I read some great books in October, and now that I’ve hit my goodreads goal of reading 40 books this year I feel so much more relaxed, it’s ridiculous. It’s amazing, really, how much stress is added to a fun activity just by putting on a reading challenge. Still, I’ve completed that goal, so now I can just focus on reading whatever I please at whatever pace I desire – which is good, considering this month I’m also trying to complete NaNoWriMo (if you’re not sure what that is, head over to my other blog here).

I read some pretty chunky books this month, clearly following a trend that I started back in September, and first up was Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. This was a book that my colleagues at work practically bullied me into reading, and I’m so glad that I fell to peer pressure. A family generation saga, this book mainly follows the story of Sunja, a young girl living in South Korea who becomes pregnant out of marriage, and ends up marrying a pastor and following him to start a new life in Japan. Moving, heart-wrenching and just pure wonderful, this book had me feeling such heartache for Sunja and her family, completely immersing me into their stories. It’s rare that an author is able to create characters so well that it feels as if they’re real, and the author is merely relating their life to you. Top marks from me.

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After this I read Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, and author who I loved as a child reading the Wolf, Brother series – yet her adult horror has definitely ruined any warm and fuzzy feelings I had towards her works. Brilliantly unsettling, this book put new meaning to horror for me – it felt isolating, and the setting of an icy landscape definitely seeped into my own world. A perfect horror read, ideal for Halloween and freezing temperatures – but I wouldn’t recommend reading it in the dark.

Then I decided I wanted to read the second and third instalment in the Northern Lights trilogy by Philip Pullman, and in October I finished The Subtle Knife. Very different from the first book, this had me loving the series even more – and with the release of his new book La Belle Sauvage, I felt the excitement and anticipation as I read it. I’m onto the third book, The Amber Spyglass, now and am looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

So although it was yet another short reading month for me, I’m incredibly pleased with the books that I read – and knowing that I’m probably going to be reading less in November, what with NaNoWriMo and the busy Christmas period kicking in at work, I’m looking forward to what the rest of 2017 will bring. I can also finally tick off that pesky horror book goal with Dark MatterPachinko added another notch to a book over 500 pages, and The Subtle Knife added yet again to a friend’s favourite book – because so many people adore this series so much that it feels sacrilege to admit to not having read them, which I’m luckily rectifying now.

 

  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