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.

 

April Wrap Up

How is it May already, I mean seriously this is getting ridiculous. One minute you’re thinking ‘new year, new you’ and the moment you start making decisions on how to change your diet it’s almost halfway through the year. This past month has been packed with essays and finishing uni and my dissertation, but somehow it feels like I’ve read more than ever. I’ve been trying to do a 30 day reading challenge, which started off fantastically (reading at least 50 pages a day), but then I became really ill and didn’t read a word for several days. So, up and down, but what can you do?

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So first up for this month I finally finished reading Paradise Lost by John Milton, something which I have been reading for one of my university modules. I really enjoyed it actually, especially with all the classical references and allusions, and would highly recommend this edition (pictured above) if you’re interested in studying it. On every page there is an array of criticism so if you’re writing an essay on certain passages there is bound to be some great details that you can get in.

Then I finished The Art of the Publisher by Roberto Calasso, a short book about Calasso’s experience of being a publisher. It’s a short, quick read and really interesting if you’re interested in books and the process of publishing. There are some beautiful passages in there as well – my favourite being that of him describing the insert blurb of the book as a letter to a stranger.

If you’ve seen my last few posts, you’ll know that I finished the glorious Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, which I did a review of here. Definitely give the review a read if you’re curious about the book, but for now all I’ll say is it’s packed with magic, stories, and dreamers.

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This month I also finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which I have been listening to on Audible for a good few months! I haven’t been listening to audiobooks much recently, so I was really happy to get back into the rhythm. This book was especially fantastic and, as I’ve found with all the Harry Potter books, the final quarter always has me up until the early hours of the morning listening with avid anticipation.

I picked up Saga as well this month, a graphic novel by Brian Vaughan. I’ve heard some really good things about it and was recommended it by a friend, and I can honestly say I loved it. Great sci-fi fun with a perfect balance of action, pathos, and humour with brilliant characters and an immense imagination.

Finally, last night, I also finished reading The Power by Naomi Alderman. When I try to think of what to say about it, I’m kind of lost for words, but to sum up I gave it four stars on Goodreads and wrote this when I finished it: The only thing I can say for a fact is that I’m conflicted. There are many elements of this story I loved, and think maybe overall it could have landed itself better as a short story. There are however elements that I wasn’t sure about. I think what the author was trying to do was very clever, and I agree that although the ending is unexpected and I’m not entirely sold on it, I can say that it is a challenging move for the author to make. Basically I just want to discuss this with someone – especially as some parts are really oversimplifying gender as we understand today.

SO, this is how I’m standing for this year in my reading challenge:

  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

Harry Potter was the only book I couldn’t find a slot for on my list, but for the others I could tick some things off! Art of the Publisher sorted out a Book under 150 pages, Saga ticked off the Graphic Novel, and I’m on my way with the 4 Classics target as Paradise Lost is being counted as one. Strange the Dreamer I chose as a book published in 2017, though really it’s as blue as blue gets so could have been another mark for ‘blue cover’, and The Power is nominated for this year’s Bailey’s prize! I’m really happy with the amount I finished this month, what with all the uni work that I had going on, and it’s terrifying to think that in my next wrap up I will have finished my exams and university completely! This year needs to slow down, stat.

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.

 

February Wrap Up

I actually managed to get through another three books this month which I’m especially proud of, what with the sudden onslaught of university work that came my way – and it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up any time soon. Still, there’s always a few moments I can grab to do some reading (and although I’m not mentioning them, I also read two books on my Kindle this month, both of which were easy, fun, and the complete opposite of uni reading).

First up was ‘Caraval’ by Stephanie Garber, which I’ve discussed previously in a blog earlier this month. It’s definitely for lovers of magic and fantasy, for fans of The Night Circus, The Crown’s Game and Schwab’s Darker Shades of Magic series. It definitely has that unputdownable element, as I read it late into the early hours of the morning. Fast-paced with fun characters and great twists at the end, after I finished I thought it was one of the greatest books ever. Once I’d had some sleep and reflected, I thought that whilst it wasn’t the best book ever, it’s certainly a great debut novel.

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Next up I read Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones. Inspired by Labyrinth with David Bowie as the Goblin King, this book follows Elizabeth as she tries to get her sister back. Surprisingly poetic, this is a book that is indeed pretty and dark at the same time. I almost wish it wasn’t tied to The Labyrinth as the writing really took off when it departed from the structure inspired by the classic. I did love how our heroine is always described as ‘unlovely’ of appearance, mainly because we were able to explore the different facets of her character. It was great fun to read, and I have a serious love/hate relationship with that ending.

And finally, I finished Hot Milk by Deborah Levy. I can easily recognise that this book is beautifully written, but for now I think I need to digest it and discuss it with others who have read it in order to truly understand what on earth has just happened. It seems I have more questions than answers, and I don’t know yet if that’s a good thing. I think I’ve found that I tend to prefer books that aren’t so literary, mainly because I find it difficult to escape within its pages to a different world. It’s a difficult one, as there are plenty of books considered to be literary that I’ve loved – take A Little Life, for example, which is still one of my favourite books. But as a wannabe writer, it’s good for me to see that complicated messages and symbolism don’t work for everyone, but that doesn’t make it any less of a good book.

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So for an update on the reading challenge – I can tick off Man Booker nominee thanks to Hot Milk, and both Caraval and Wintersong were published this year so that’s another one! I’ve decided in this ongoing process that books cannot have two ‘stars’ each or count for two different categories, just to make this more challenging for myself.

  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

Here’s to March!

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January Wrap Up

It’s been a slow month for me, thanks to the onslaught of uni work and reading and other extra instances of stress (aka I had my wisdom tooth out and it was awful, would not recommend, you lose over a week of reading. Bad time). But we made it to February, and I even have a couple of goals I can already cross off!

First up for me this month was The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. It’s definitely inspired an upcoming blog post about children’s books, especially the classics, and I’m so happy I finally got around to reading this gem. I fully understand why everyone was so angry with the film, and really wish that they had been able to include the finer details along with that insane ending – so many twists and turns I didn’t know what to do with myself. Absolutely adored it, and here’s hoping I’ll be able to get to the sequels some point soon.

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Then, in one very long night, I read Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. I had read 40 pages on one evening and had to put it down to do some work, but after trying to read more of Paradise Lost, I decided to keep reading Truthwitch. Next thing I know it’s 2am, my eyes are burning and my head is aching but I’m still so happy because that book took me for quite the ride. I received it for review from work, and so dutifully posted a review on the website the next morning when I had actually had some sleep. A brilliant first book of a series, and my only critiques were a need for more world building (and details) along with more character development, which I’m sure we’ll see through the series. Great for anyone looking for a new fun fantasy, with a great female friendship at its centre.

The third and final book I read was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche which was for a feminist book club that I’ve joined. Technically I finished it on the 1st of February, but I put so much effort into reading this in January that I’m counting it as a January read for sure. It was so difficult to read alongside university, especially as I wanted to savour the words on every page. It’s one of those books where, really, you don’t really mind what happens plot-wise – you just want to soak up all of the words and thoughts the author has, translated in beautiful prose. I loved being able to talk about this book in such a big group of people, as the topics explored – racism, feminism, mental illness, immigrant experiences and more – needed the time we gave for full discussion. A brilliantly written, powerful book which deserves all the attention it’s had and more.

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And so here is my updated 2017 challenge list, with a star at the beginning of the ones I’ve completed:

  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

Americanah was shortlisted for the Baileys fiction prize, Truthwitch has a blue cover, and Northern Lights is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long, longlong time. I’m pleased that all three managed to tick off a challenge, as that was completely unintentional. I think instead of crossing off those challenges completely, I’ll add a star each time I complete it – for example, if I read another Baileys nominee I’ll add a second star. That way I can see which challenges I’ve completed, and which ones I’ve utterly destroyed.

Here’s to February.

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Moving on to 2017

Instead of writing a December Wrap Up, I thought I’d talk about my reading year overall and what I plan to do next year. December has been an awful month of reading, as it’s been a chaotic mess of essays, food, and being distracted by the dog (not to mention the Sims 4 City Living expansion which I put off buying until Christmas). So although I started a couple of books (I’m almost halfway through The Northern Lights, and also have started Fat is a Feminist Word for a book club), not much reading was done in December. Essays are still looming, and I also have to read Paradise Lost for a module that starts in January (help), but I’m sure everything will be fine.

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Looking back, I’ve read some absolutely incredible books this year. My top five, in no particular order, are:

  1. The Martian by Andy Weir – this book surpassed all my expectations, delivering a surprisingly witty read that had me hooked from the get-go.
  2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – the only book this year that made me cry, slam it closed, and curse out loud on a train. Fantastic writing, a beautiful heart-wrenching story, and characters that truly feel real.
  3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I was so excited to discover this author, and this book has been the one to which I judge other fantasy fairytales (none so far are able to compare).
  4. Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman – this book still stuns me as it was such a dynamic read. Never before have I read anything like it with the interesting formatting and variety of ways of presenting the story. I really need the sequel.
  5. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – a book so beautiful and enticing that I’m doing it for my dissertation. Rich with detail and transforming a story I thought I knew so well, it’s the perfect example of reimagining a well known story.

Honourable mentions of course to The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye and A Darker Shade of Magic books one and two by V.E. Schwab.

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Quirk Books

It’s been a great year of reading for me, and I’m shocked that only two fantasy books were in my top five. But one thing I will say is that, although it was great to reach my goal, there were times when I felt slightly stressed about hitting that target. So, instead of saying that in 2017 I’m going to read ‘x’ amount of books, I’ve decided to do something a bit different. In 2017, I’m going to attempt to complete 17 book challenges, and these are the ones I’ve chosen:

  1. 4 ‘Classics’ (I really haven’t read enough)
  2. A Man Booker nominee
  3. A Baileys nominee (another book award)
  4. A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. ‘A Blue Cover’
  6. A Graphic Novel
  7. A Horror Book (I never read this genre)
  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
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I, for one, am excited to get started on 2017’s reading. I wanted a challenge that encouraged me to branch out and read different things – I never really read plays, graphic novels, poetry, or horror, nor do I read much non-fiction outside of university. Having a challenge like this means that I’ve got room to read whatever I like, whether they count towards the challenge or not. In total, if I complete all the challenges, it means I’ll need to read a certain 20 books. As I read just over 50 this year, I’ll be able to get in quite a lot of other books in addition to the challenge (especially my favourite fantasy books).

Here’s to another great year of reading. Hope you all had a great Christmas and best of luck for the new year (whether it’s filled with books or not).

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November Wrap Up

It happened – I finally hit 50 books. This means that although 2016 was a complete mess in general, at least I was successful when it came to reading. Thank God.

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First up was Throne of Jade, the second book in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. Just like the first one, I absolutely adored the main characters – the relationship between Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire, is just perfect. However it took my a long time to get through this book, only partly due to university obligations. I just found that although I adored the characters, I didn’t need to know anything more. The plot isn’t exactly fast paced, and with a multiple book series I think it could have benefitted with a more gripping narrative. So although I did like it, I’m not incited to read the rest of the series.

Then I had the true joy of reading Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, a childhood book that I had never read before and it’s been on my list for years. Unexpectedly, it was even better than I imagined it could be – and has definitely inspired an upcoming post about children’s books. A lovely story, a sarky narrator, and magical realism alongside the real magic. Sweet, charming, and just a brilliant read – helped greatly by a great edition with gorgeous pictures.

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Then I read Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, which I ended up giving three stars. Based on a Russian folklore, this story is crazy beyond belief without much clarity. If you ever pick it up, I’d highly recommend reading up on the folklore beforehand, as the story makes very little sense without it – unlike other modern takes on fairytales, such as Novik’s Uprooted. I didn’t anticipate one of the twists at the end which was a great surprise that I enjoyed, but overall I think the book could have benefitted with some more character work as I didn’t actually like the two main characters, Vassa and Erg.

I then read a YA book about witches, called The Graces. Very easy to read, I finished it in a few short days and, although it was intended to be YA, it read more like teenage fiction. However the final twist at the end was also hugely unexpected, and I loved it once I realised all the clues that had been dropped through the narrative. Apart from that, the overall story was a bit simplistic and it was like Twilight but with witches. Essentially, the setting is a new girl in town at a school where there is this family rumoured to be witches that always hang out together and are super popular and everyone adores them. Every girl in school is in love with the boy character, including the protagonist, but she gets close to them and pretends that she isn’t in love with him, whereas she’s completely obsessed. Thought it would have been brilliant if this was played up a bit more, so the reader is completely turned off and even concerned about the main character and her obsession, but that doesn’t come to pass. Still, a fun, easy read.

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Finally, I read Fire Inside You by Jennifer L Armentrout and, as I usually do with her books, read it in one sitting. There’s not much I really feel like I need to say – Armentrout has a great style of keeping you hooked, dropping lines at every chapter end that make you think ‘Ok, after the next chapter I’ll stop’. She makes her characters likeable and overall it’s just lovely to read.

That means I’m on 51 for the year! I’m so excited that I met the goal, and have already planned a new challenge for next year which I’ll announce with my December Wrap Up. I’m currently on book 52, but it’s not taking priority at the moment as I focus on getting my university work done and dusted before Christmas. Best of luck to any of you attempting a reading challenge, let’s do well in something this year.