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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July Reading Wrap Up

Every time I try to sit down and write this wrap up, I keep having to abandon all progress I make because it’s too bloody hot to be sitting down with a laptop and all I really want to do is lie in the shade with an ice cream. But, here I am, ready to bash out this wrap up post in a prompt fashion so I can go back to finding ways to keep cool.

It seems my average books per month this year is the nice, even number 4, and July was no different. I was off to a flying start in this month because I picked up a fantasy novel I’d been meaning to read for a while, which only fed my fantasy addiction so I picked up another straight after. The first was Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake, a fantasy set in a historical Ireland where the main threat consisted of Nordic Viking invaders. You follow the heroine Ciara, who has strange and powerful gifts to control the minds of people in battle, as she is forced to partner up with her enemy to defeat a greater threat. There are great elements to this story, blending two different folklores such as The Morrigan with Norse Mythology, and doing it very well. I loved the opening chapters, with these engaging storylines and well paced plot – any book with Norse mythology in it will obviously keep me very happy, but I think there was definitely more that could be done.

On the whole, the book was paced well, but scenes towards the end seemed cut short – a huge battle that is essentially the ‘boss fight’ lasted no more than two or three pages. And let’s be honest, I love a good bit of romance and I liked the two leads, but I was the complete opposite of invested which isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a fun fantasy adventure. Overall a good book and a fun read, but definitely think there was more room for development – especially in the second half of the story.

Whilst I was still in the high of whizzing through that fantasy, I dived straight into Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett. And, again, I finished this in two or three days. A really enjoyable, quick read – which was exactly what I wanted from it. For me, I think whilst I did enjoy the book it definitely needed some more worldbuilding and explaining of magic systems, religions, and the actual reasoning behind some parts of the story. There are also more YA fantasy cliches and tropes than you know what to do with, which can be a bit of a slog if you’re fed up with similar plot ‘twists’ and character traits. I’m hopeful that the world will develop more in the sequels, and maybe the following books will give answers to elements not covered in the first book. Overall, I found it gripping up until the last quarter, where the end felt forced and rushed. Still, I would recommend for a light, fun read if you’re not too worried about large world building elements and rich detail.

Deciding that I needed to make sure July wasn’t a fantasy-a-thon, the next book I picked up was I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. Wow, is all I can really say. An incredible memoir of Maggie’s near-death experiences, from reckless childhood behaviour to illness to giving birth. There are accounts of encounters with strange men on deserted paths, being robbed on holiday, and ending with protecting her daughter from a condition that leaves her vulnerable to the world around her, for who the book is written for. I honestly could have read this all in one sitting, but it was the perfect book to read on the tube, dipping into one episode after the next on each journey. A truly fantastic, powerful read.

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Finally in July, I ended on a bit of a slog with The Idiot by Elif Batuman. Despite all the acclaims, praise, and recommendations, I just couldn’t get into this one. I really struggled to pick it up and read, and so ended up talking half the month just to finish it. In comparison to the fantasy I read, this was the exact opposite where I had to force myself to find time to read it, and felt like I’d read 50 pages when I’d barely got through 10. It is very well written, but unfortunately wasn’t for me.

And that was my July! Four books, all memorable and different in their own ways. I’m on track for my Goodreads reading target for the year, but since leaving working at a bookshop my TBR pile has really shrunk – hurrah! This means I’m on the hunt for reading recommendations, so if you have any definitely let me know. I’m also on the hunt for a proof of Samantha Shannon’s new book The Priory of the Orange Tree, but I have a feeling I’ll have to wait a long while for that one.

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.