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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Favourite Books of 2017

2017 was a brilliant year for me in reading terms, with only a few books that I didn’t give four or five stars. Still, there were a few that still shone out from the rest, so these are my Top 10 favourite books I read in 2017. First of all though, honourable mentions go to The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson, A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas, and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. All three fantasy books were definitely some of my favourites read this year, two of which were final instalments of trilogies I adored.

Moving on to the top 10, this ordering of the list is subject to change many times due to my inability to be decisive when it comes to things I love and choosing between them, as really there’s no comparing a few of them. Can anyone truly say that their adoration of an epic fantasy book is in any way comparable to a piece of emotive literary fiction that had their heart clenched within its grip from start to finish? I get very different versions of enjoyment and entertainment from different genres, so as much as I want to list my top three fantasy, top three fiction, top three non-fiction and so on, I’m just going to stick them in an order that works for me at this moment in time.

Who knew a top 10 needed such a preamble. ONTO THE LIST.

10. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I loved reading this book, but I’ve grown to love it even more since finishing it and discussing it with others. There was a lot of ‘hype’ and anticipation going into it, which is probably why I was so conflicted about my feelings of it, as although I thought it a brilliant piece of fiction it didn’t change my whole world. Yet, I admit, since discussing its nuances and clever points with friends, I can say that it deserves all of the praise it receives.

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9. A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Perhaps one of my favourite fantasy authors, the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy was the first book of Schwab’s that I picked up. I finished the first two in as many days, and before the third was released I read several of her other books and equally adored them, so to finish the trilogy that started my love for this author was bittersweet. I’m so happy with how it ended, and can’t wait for what this author will bring in 2018.

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8. The Northern Lights series by Philip Pullman

Maybe cheating a little, but I’m listing the whole Northern Lights series as my number 8 for 2017. I read the whole series last year, a feat I’m rather proud of, and plan to read The Book of Dust sometime this year. The first instalment was my first read of 2017, and definitely set the standard for the books that I read afterwards. A brilliant series, one that took me by complete surprise, and I’m so grateful that I finally got a chance to read it for myself.

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7. Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest

I’ve been thinking about reading more poetry since finishing university, and after a friend highly recommended Kate Tempest I was so glad that a) my friend has good taste and b) Kate Tempest exists. A beautiful collection, one that is inspiring me to read more and more poetry (recommendations are more than welcome please and thank you).

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6. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Damn, it’s hard to pick between your favourite reads – as if they’re all children who have fulfilled your every wish. The Secret History is a book that everyone and their mothers have been badgering at me to read and, finally, I can say that I fully understand why. Prose so eloquent and rich that I felt like I had to reread sentences, because I was pretty certain that just reading  them once wouldn’t be enough to fully appreciate the complexity of graceful talent that exists within every one.

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5. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Ah, Pachinko, you still make my heart ache. Whilst it wasn’t as gutting and soul-destroying as A Little Life (in a good way), it was still emotive enough to have me texting friends at all hours with updates of where I was for emotional support. A beautiful piece of fiction, and a family-saga the likes of which I’ve never enjoyed more.

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4. This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

Perhaps one of the most important pieces of non-fiction to read in 2017, and I hope that it’s one that everyone does read. Charming, hilarious, and moving, this has you crying from laughter one moment and just all out crying from despair the next. Brilliantly told, and its message is unmistakable; we need to help our NHS, and we need to do it now.

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3. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Ah, the top three. What a wonderful place to be – and in third Laini Taylor has more than earned her spot, her Strange the Dreamer winning my heart within mere pages. It was fantasy the likes of which I can’t ever remember reading before, the type that would make your heart feel full and send your spirit soaring. Strange the Dreamer felt like it was written just for me, for all those dreamers and book-lovers in the world who find solace within the written word and see stories and adventures where other people would see lines on pages. After reading this book, I bought the whole of her previously written trilogy without even reading the blurb of it, knowing that this author would not fail me – and having just finished the second in the series this afternoon, I’m pleased to say that this statement holds true.

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2. Insomniac City by Bill Hayes

I don’t think I’ve stopped talking about this book since I finished it. I also have continued to recycle the same sentences when trying to describe it, telling everyone that it is a love letter to New York and captures Hayes’ life with partner Oliver Sacks. It’s filled with stories of his work as a photographer and the people he meets, and the love story between him and Sacks pretty much had me in a constant state of vulnerability and warring emotions as I tried not to descend into sobs. Truly beautiful, and it’s a book that has sparked a need inside me to read more and more non-fiction – I honestly feel like I owe so much to this one book. An incredible writer without doubt, and there is no reason that I could think of as to why someone wouldn’t like this book.

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And, finally, my number one.

1. Circe by Madeline Miller

This book hasn’t even been published yet, but it still remains as my favourite read of 2017. The Song of Achilles holds its spot at the top of my all-time favourite reads, and Circe joins it in the ranks. It’s everything I want from a book, with classical inspiration, beautiful prose, and characters that make me want to fling myself into the narrative just so I can spend some time in their company. Miller’s use of language is skilled and seemingly effortless, and the Classicist within me is so grateful and overjoyed to have her writing such excellent fiction based off of myths. She manages to rewrite them in ways that make them seem fresh and new, without changing anything fixed – she merely adds elements that, if you didn’t know any better, Homer must have just left out. She brings new life to these old characters, and even though you know how their stories end she still manages to keep you hooked, and also cruelly gives you a glimmer of hope that tragedy will not come their way. Just superb.

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And that, reader, is my list of my top 10 reads of 2017. Let me know your favourites and what you’ve read, or if you agree with any of my favourites. Go forth, read widely and diversely, and report back. I personally hope to gain even more from what I read in 2018, from reading more non-fiction to reading more from POC authors. It’s very apparent that I have hardly any POC authors near the top of my list, which definitely means that I’m not reading enough by them. If anything, reading opens up the world in a way that nothing else can, and it’s very clear that if I only read white authors, that’s the only view from which I’ll be able to understand the world around me – and I’m a girl who likes her varied vantage points.

So, once again, let’s smash 2018.

 

May Fairyloot Unboxing

It comes as no surprise that book subscription boxes are my vice, and every month if I have saved enough money and can come up with a good enough excuse why I should treat myself (this month’s excuse was exams, in case you were curious), I ordered myself one. Fairyloot has definitely become my go-to for subscription boxes, as not only are they a UK based company, but also for the fact that every single one I’ve had in the past I loved. It also helps that the May theme was ‘Warriors & Legends’, and as a Classics student who is a huge fan of epic and wrote her dissertation on heroes, this was definitely going to be a box for me.

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Featured above is the design for this month, which was also included on a book mark – and, again, I’m a girl who is a big fan of all things dogs so clearly we’re onto a winner already.

The first two items were a tin of green tea named after the box from The Tea Leaf co and an exclusive candle titled ‘Mist’ to fit the theme of the book for this month’s box from In the Wick of Time. Two really lovely items, both of which I’ve already used (and, obviously, loved).

These next two are perhaps my favourite items in the whole box. The first is a pair of Celtic Socks, I believe from Fairyloot themselves, which are as comfortable as they are pretty. Then, as if this box was directly aimed at me, someone who basically tailored their degree into one on Ancient mythology, they included the book World Mythology in Bite-sized Chunks by Mark Daniels. Both items are just so well thought out and definitely work with the theme – and did I mention how much I love it? Yes? Oh.

Then we have a stunning bookmark from Ink and Wonder with a quote from The Lord of the Rings, ‘One ring to rule them all’. Apparently their bookmarks are made from sustainably sourced wood, so how can you not love it? Then there is the brilliant Metallic Feather Pen from Flora’s Wonder Emporium which, as you can probably guess from my reactions to everything else in this box, I absolutely adore.

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And finally, the beautiful book of this month is Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh. Described as a retelling of Mulan set in feudal Japan, I am so onboard and definitely ready to bump it up on my TBR list – not to mention that it’s just such a beautiful book.

And so I come to the not-really-surprising conclusion that this box was everything I wanted and more, so I would highly recommend to any fantasy booklovers who are interested in trying out a subscription box to look into Fairyloot. Their boxes usually run out pretty quickly every month, so definitely keep an eye out for when they next go on sale as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

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(Still trying to improve my book-taking photos, and was actually pretty proud of how this turned out. You can however see that the book is balancing on something else, which I’m unashamed to admit is a copy of A Conjuring of Light by V.E Schwab because, honestly, there’s nothing stronger or more stable than that.)

March Wrap Up

 

Back again with another reading wrap up, this time for the glorious month of March. This is the month where I had the embarrassingly late realisation that I should probably count the books that I read for university in this wrap up, and maybe that way I’ll feel more motivated to keep reading them.

First up was the glorious Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab which I was very kindly sent by Titan Books for an honest review on the Waterstones website (and you can see what I said here – my review is titled ‘A Swashbuckling Finale’, which I was pretty proud of). It was a brilliant end to what has been a fantastic trilogy, and whenever I try to do my own writing for fun I think of how Schwab weaves together her masterpieces and marvel at her extraordinary imagination. If you enjoy fantasy filled with magic, pirates, parallel Londons, cross-dressing thieves, and a magical red coat, then this is the trilogy for you.

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The next book I read was Asking For It by Louise O’Neill, which I read for the Feminist Book Club I am a part of. It had such a powerful effect on me that I had to write a review on it straight away, which you can read here. I had to put this book down several times because I physically couldn’t read it all in one go just due to how painful to read it was – in a good way. It follows the story of a girl who lives in a small town who gets raped, and how her friends and family react to it. What makes this a very difficult novel to swallow is the fact that we see this girl before the rape, and she isn’t someone that you root for – she lies to her friends, maliciously degrades them, and overall just isn’t someone you want to hang around. As a reader, it’s very difficult to be thrown into a narrative alongside a character like this, especially as all you want to do is sympathise with her when she does get raped. And of course you do sympathise, and the author is powerfully demonstrating the message that there is no circumstance in which rape should be pardoned. A brilliant book with a very important message.

To recover from that book hangover, I read Blood For Blood by Ryan Graudin. The follow-up of Wolf by Wolf, this marked the end of a duology. I think I may have preferred the first book, but that by no means meant that this wasn’t a great conclusion. The characters are certainly explored and developed more, and I think the end was very fitting, if not very hard to accept personally due to what happens to some characters – and that’s as much as I’ll say.

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Following that I read two plays for university: The Island by Athol Fugard and Thebes Land by Sergio Blanco. Both were for a module on classical reception, the first of which is a famous reception of Antigone, the latter a reception of the Oedipus myth. Both were very dynamic reads, especially when you know the mythology inspiration behind them, and I wish I could see them performed.

Finally for March, I read Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, a book that I’ve put off reading because I loved Illuminae, the first in the series, so much that I was gutted to find out the sequel focussed on different characters. But oh my god how I’m glad it did, because the characters you meet in Gemina are, dare I say it, almost even better than the ones in Illuminae. A brilliant sic-fi read and the most interesting, using not prose but an amalgamation of emails, transcripts, the occasional transposed video blog, diagrams and more. It’s fun and a new way to read, one that I absolutely adored.

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Which brings us to my total of 12 books read so far this year, excluding the books that I read on my Kindle (because Amazon is the devil and we should support bookshops as much as possible). So to look to my 2017 reading challenges, this is what it looks like so far:

  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

Conjuring of Light ticked off the ‘Book over 500 pages’, Asking For It ticked off the ‘Feminist Book’ because although it isn’t non-fiction it is based on true events and it’s powerful enough to deserve that place. Blood For Blood sorted out ‘finish a series you’ve started’, the two plays obviously ticked off the ‘play’ challenge, and Gemina ticked off ‘Blue cover’ once more. So I have eight challenges left to complete this year: the four classics, a graphic novel, a horror book, a friend’s favourite, poetry, a book under 150 pages, a book with a character with my name, and an autobiography. The only ones I’m worried about are the classic challenge, the horror and the autobiography – mainly because I don’t know what to read. So if you have any recommends for horror books, hilarious autobiographies, or your favourite classics, then let me know in the comments. Please. I beg.

 

YALC

July has been a really rough month for several reasons, but it’s really impacted on my reading – as I’ll talk more of in my wrap up in a few days. However, I did have the chance to go to YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) in London on Friday, the first ever book convention I’ve ever been to, and it was such a fantastic experience.

To start things off, I think one thing I did learn from the experience is that although I loved it as a whole, next time I’d want to go to a convention that either had more than just YA or more authors that I knew and loved. If I had been at the convention all three days, I think I would have very easily grown bored and fed up. Although there are a lot of YA books that I love, there seems to be far more that I seriously dislike. Going from stall to stall hearing the same kinds of plot lines. So-and-so discovers that she has powers and has to save the world, whilst being caught up in a tricky love triangle. So-and-so is a fairy demon that must take on his father the overlord to take back the kingdom. So-and-so is fighting *insert illness here* and discovers the true value of friendship. And with characters that are mostly 15-17 year olds, it’s difficult to keep reading if you can’t engage with the story.

But there is something special about YA, possibly due to the fact that there are so many YA authors these days. No other genre, or at least in my experience, covers so many bases and aspects of real life. The vast amount of YA literature that includes and discusses mental illnesses, LGBTQ+, themes of police brutality, discrimination, racism – the list goes on. The fact that you could probably separate YA as a whole into fantasy YA, LGBTQ+ YA, contemporary YA and more just shows the range of literature in just one genre.

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Anyway, back to the convention. Along with a wide range of literature, there was also a wide range of ages – teenagers from 13 were present as well as adults that looked to be in their forties (and not accompanied by anyone younger). The atmosphere was incredible, the enthusiasm and joy from just discussing books. The panels I attended were about fantasy in YA, and being able to hear from authors I didn’t know much about before was wonderful.

One of the main reasons I wanted to attend was to meet and listen to Victoria Schwab, or V.E Schwab for some of her books. I’ve mentioned her books in several other posts in reviews and how much I just love every single one of them. She was honestly such a lovely human being, and her responses in panels seemed to be as beautifully crafted as her books – even though she couldn’t have pre-written her answers, due to the unknown audience questions. Her eloquence in speaking and brilliant answers were inspiring and just incredible – I could honestly listen to someone interviewing her for hours. It was also fun to dive into a book signing in true convention style – joining a rather large queue for a quick twenty second chat with an author you love.

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The final thing that I loved about the convention was the various activities and chats you could join, from workshops to small talks. Two I attended were on working in the publishing industry, which had so many great speakers with varied advice on the industry, and an ‘Agent 1-2-1’ where you had five minutes to pitch an idea to an agent for feedback. Informative, encouraging, and still with the element of book-loving-joy, I would highly recommend.

So for my first ever book convention, it was wonderful to attend and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for others. It’s definitely given me a boost to get straight back into reading, and I can’t wait for August.

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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The Archived by Victoria Schwab

We all know about my love for Victoria/V.E Schwab (see here and here), but one of the first books of hers that I had heard about was The Archived. Surprisingly, I struggled to find a copy in the bookshops I visited in the UK, but after being gifted one for my birthday I immediately delved into it – and I’m glad I did.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost, Da’s death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and fall.

Schwab has, in my opinion, the ability to truly create something that is the closest to unique you can find. With so many books these days, especially those within the fantasy/sci-fi/supernatural genres, you can see exactly what they’ve been inspired from. You see the common tropes and themes, like that classic YA line ‘they let out a breath they didn’t know they were holding’. We’re all desperate to read something new, not something adapted, and it just so happens that every time I’ve read something by the marvellous Schwab, I feel like I’m reading something new.

The Archived has the very interesting premise of a library of the dead, of their memories and lives. Yet these bodies, known as ‘Histories’, often wake up and try to escape – which is why there are Keepers, tasked with stopping them. Our heroine, Mackenzie Bishop, is a Keeper with a very interesting history of her own, and she makes a very dynamic main character.

Throughout the book, there are flashbacks to conversations with her grandfather, Da, who passed on the role of being Keeper to her. It was this element, among many, that I really enjoyed reading. Learning about her relationship with Da, and how it separated her slightly from her family and hearing other people’s thoughts on that relationship, was just fantastic to read. There are constant themes of isolation linked to grief within this book, what with the death of Da and her brother before the book begins, and these various dark edges to the novel set it apart, making it more believable as a fantasy setting.

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The opening was particularly strong for me, really enticing and engaging with beautiful writing and nice detailing. Schwab again is an author who can support her fantastic ideas with fantastic writing, a style that makes putting the book down a somewhat impossibility. And the physical book itself has lovely details on the inside pages, which I especially appreciated.

So with consistent beautiful details and writing, it’s no surprise that I adored this book. Schwab introduced and maintained her world incredibly well, blending nicely the foreign with the natural. The lines between fantasy and reality for the reader link to the book’s lines between past and present, the unknown and the known.

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The secondary characters are also noteworthy, but I don’t want to say too much more for fear of spoiling anything. What I will say is that this is a fantastic book with great world-building, twists, character developments, and some great humour dotted throughout the darker reality of grief, loss, and pain. A top recommendation from me.