May Reading Wrap Up

Well, it has happened – I have finally finished university. After a month of essay deadlines and exams, I’m amazed I read as much as I did. I think that’s been the standard theme of this year so far; my surprise each month that I actually found time to read. It definitely helped that I participated in a 30 day reading challenge, and I’m sure that’s why my totals this month (two books over 500 pages is quite the feat for me) are pretty darn fantastic.

First up this month was The Hero of Ages, the third and final instalment in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy that I started back in 2015! I read the previous two books the previous two summers, having saved them both all year for when I felt I had enough time to read them – and then the genius that is 2017 me decided I had enough time to read the final book over coursework season. If that’s not impressive, then I’m not sure what is.

Then as if that book wasn’t long enough, I followed it up with another final instalment to a trilogy: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas. This was pure guilty pleasure for me, and I devoured it within a week. Just pure fun, uncomplicated (in a good way) fantasy that you can just lose yourself in. Complete escapism at its best, and a series that has improved so much from its first instalment.

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After that, I finally read a book I’ve been promising myself, and my colleagues, that I would pick up for ages. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders was an unexpected joy, Saunders somehow redefining what it means to write fiction and do so in a way that reminds you just how much art there is in writing. He weaves his story from excerpts of various non-fiction literature on Lincoln, interspersed with his own pure fictional writing. The combination of non-fiction, fiction, and non-fiction crafted as fiction, created a completely new way of reading. Although the first few pages I found it difficult to process, once you get used to the formatting you can hardly put the book down.

It was after this that I read Animal by Sara Pascoe, ‘The Autobiography of the Female Body’. For this I’m just going to repeat what I said in Goodreads, which is that this was a great book separated into discussions on ‘love’, ‘body’, and ‘consent’. Pascoe manages to insert humour and charm, but still discusses serious, and upsetting, topics with a sincerity. This is a good book if you want a mix of entertainment, autobiography, well/explained science, and talks on bodies. Of course people who are well versed on the subjects will find fault with some of the scientific facts, but for me it was a perfect balance of digestible science I could understand and Pascoe’s own thought. Whilst Pascoe is addressing matters of the ‘female body’ and does in her footnotes clarify that this can apply to those who do and do not identify as being female or to those who weren’t necessarily born in a ‘female’ body, I think I would have liked more discussion on gender within her ‘body’ section. Overall the book raises some fantastic points that I definitely support, but for a book on bodies and love I think there should be more discussion dedicated to gender itself.

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If you want more beauties like this you should definitely check out my Instagram *wink wink nudge nudge*

After a successful non-fiction read, which I don’t read enough of, I decided to go for something else new – poetry. The only poetry I’ve really read is within my education, and whilst I’ve enjoyed it I’ve never gone out and read poetry for fun. This is why, to start off my journey, I picked up the bestselling collection Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. And, I’m sad to say, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea – which is why I’m going to do a full review either sometime later this week or next. It’s so difficult, because of course you can see how much heart the author pours in, and then to find you don’t really like it, I especially find it hard to give such negative feedback. One thing is for certain – I’m definitely going to pick up more poetry soon to find something I do love.

And that brings me to the end of May, so let’s look how the reading challenge is going:

 

  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

Thanks to Animal, I ticked off an autobiography because that word is within the subtitle so it definitely counts. Milk and Honey also ticked off poetry, so a pretty darn good month. The Hero of Ages and A Court of Wings and Ruin both added a notch to finishing a series you’ve started, as they were both the final instalments of two trilogies I’ve loved. Lincoln in the Bardo added a fourth notch to books published in 2017. Overall, a pretty great reading month. It means I’m still left with 3 Classics (I knew that was going to be a struggle to get to), a Horror Book, a friend’s favourite book, and a book with a character with your name. I definitely have books in mind for the latter two, but still haven’t found a Horror book that I want to read, so if anyone has any suggestions I’m all ears. After all, June is my birthday month so I’m planning to do a rather large book haul.

 

June Wrap Up

Ah June, my favourite month of the year. End of exams, the start of summer, some actual sun, and of course my birthday in the middle. This year it also included a ten day getaway where I managed to read a book almost every day – bliss. To make things even better, all the books I read this month were book-books, not bought on my kindle, so I’m feeling even more accomplished. *pats own back*

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First up for June was The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, which was not only a good book but is one of the texts I’m using for my dissertation. It’s always nice to feel twice as productive when reading a book. Even if you’re not interested in ancient mythology, this is just the most beautiful book and is the perfect example of how you rewrite a myth. Despite already knowing what would happen at the end, someone Miller managed to make me tear up and have my gut clench on several occasions. Five stars without doubt.

Next up was the short and sweet Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner, which I mainly picked up as we were recommending it at work. A really lovely book, made by the characters in it and the perspective of the main character – she’s an author exiled by her friends to a hotel where she meets several interesting people, but can’t seem to differentiate between reality and her own imagination. Brilliant for anyone who likes reading and writing.

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Thanks to work, I got my hands on a copy of This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab, and the concept and execution was  nearly flawless. The closest to an original idea you can find, which is something that I often say when it comes to this author. I wrote a bit of a longer review here under ‘Not a Love Story’.

Then I read A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (I wrote a review for the first book here) and, despite originally giving the first book five stars, I want to change that to three stars just so I can give this one five stars. Miles better than the first, and I far preferred our main character and the way she’s developed along with the picking apart of the issues with the previous relationships in the first book – ugh it was just such a great sequel and I’m desperate to have the third book immediately.

Back again to V.E. Schwab, I finally picked up The Archived and what another brilliantly creative piece of work. A good first book in a series, and I hope to pick up the sequel soon – four stars from me.

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Then finally, finally, I read the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, which I’ve been meaning to read for literally a year. I read the first last summer and for some reason just didn’t read the second until now – that’s the problem when there are just so many good books to read, I suppose. Brilliant twists and characters, definitely enjoyed it as much as the first.

Now for another dissertation book, Memorial by Alice Oswald which I thought was clever, well done, but a bit too morbid for me. It goes through everyone that dies in Homer’s Iliad ussing similes and metaphors and beautiful devices to create this ‘memorial’. Then I read Weight by Jeanette Winterson which was a lovely retelling of the Atlas myth that, in all honesty, I didn’t know much about beforehand, so it was lovely to discover something new.

Next up was Nod by Adrian Barnes, which I did a full review of here, and then When We Collided by Emery Lord. I thought as a whole the book dealt well with grief and mental illness well and I appreciated that the author didn’t take the easy path ending-wise. There was a very obvious ending that I wasn’t looking forward to, so was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t happen. Three stars from me.

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Then (yes, I’m still going people), was the Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, dissertation book number 3 of the month, and I wish someone had told me to read this straight after reading the Odyssey because it’s exactly what I needed. Beautifully told and heartbreaking, using the Maids killed as a harrowing Chorus of sorts, setting up the story as a tragedy and not the epic the Odyssey appears to be. Just wonderful.

And, last but not least, I read Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin and it was a great book to end the month on, an unexpected favourite. A great idea and well told, an alternative history for if Hitler won the second World War with a little fantastical twist which made the book so engaging. One aspect of the novel I really enjoyed was the discovery, in the sense that the heroine was learning alongside the reader of her surroundings and the people around her, which really brought you closer to the narrative.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, means that my book count for the month of June was 12 books. Twelve books! Definitely my best so far. That brings me to 34/50 physical books for this year’s reading challenge and, including kindle books, in total I’ve reached 50 books! I reached my mid-year goal of 25 books easily, and I’m shocked that I got to 50 with kindle books included. I think I’ll need this head start for the rest of this year, what with final year starting in September, but also due to the fact that July has kicked off with illness along with starting full time at work (this means less time to do nothing but read). Though I think I can say that I should be able to reach the 50 book goal by the end of the year.

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A Court of Thorns and Roses

Fairytales. I love them. Why wouldn’t you love a place where if you somehow fit yourself into a rabbit hole, you end up in a new world or where it doesn’t matter if you die because some charming bloke might come along, give you a kiss and hey presto, you’re alive and now have a perfect boyfriend? Needless to say, I’ve always loved a good disney movie or magical tale where good (almost always) triumphs and everyone is happy happy happy.

There is, however, something I love even more – and that is modern adaptations and the retelling of fairytales. You recognise some of the elements, but only as a background thought because you truly have no idea how it’s going to end. Ok, so those films like Snow White and the Huntsman or Maleficent and the like are pretty standard in their adaptations, in the sense that you still know the characters and pretty much what’s going to happen. However, there are very few books that can do a fairytale retelling and make you forget that that’s what it is. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

Written by the brilliant Sarah J. Maas, known for her fantastic Throne of Glass series, this retelling of Beauty and the Beast is fantastically brilliant. My favourite books that include faeries, or ‘The Fae’, still remain as the Iron King series by Julie Kagawa, most likely due to the fact that they were among the first I read so I have some nostalgia for them. Sarah J. Maas, however, has definitely claimed her place among my favourite reads, let alone favourite Fae reads. She has a perfect blend of fantasy and magic with action, adventure with that sprinkle of romance to whisk you away to another world. Her writing style is just beautiful with exquisite detail that maintains this fast pace into this new world. She builds up each scene until you’re flipping through the pages at the speed of light, devouring every word.

Feyre is a great lead character but clearly has a lot of room for development for the next books in the trilogy. Her circumstances force her to be a Katniss-like figure, hunting in the dangerous woods and providing for her family where there are other fairytale elements – for example, her two sisters almost act like the typical ‘evil stepsisters’ but in a much more realistic way. Instead of just insults and jeers, there is a complex background and history to their family relationships which only brings the story to life.

As said in the blurb, Feyre (I think it’s pronounced Fay-rah, but I’ll get back to you on that one) is taken to magical, yet sinister, Fae realm/territory and her captor’s face is covered by a strange mask. From here, you delve into a strange mystery with new plot twists at every chapter. Maas adds elements to the story like logs to a fire, so where you started with a small flame you’re left with a raging bonfire as the tale builds and builds.

I read this book in one sitting, unsurprisingly, and would definitely recommend to anyone interested in fantasy and mystery. It transforms any notions of faeries being small and sparkly people with wings and fairy dust into these terrifying, ruthless monsters that use trickery to cause pain for their viewing pleasure. A brilliant read and an easy five stars from me.