Book Resolutions

I made a post of my twin blog (alwayslovetowrite) about my resolutions this year, and one of those was to read 50 books. I wanted to take this moment to mention a few things about what I hope to do in the near future with this blog.

It’s not a secret that I started up this blog just so that I could have a space where I talk about books and all things book-y. If I had the guts, I would start up a Youtube channel and join the ‘Booktube’ community, but the thought of some people watching me on Youtube makes me feel ill – along with the fact that I tried it once, and when I look back at the videos today I do, indeed, feel very, very ill.

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Anyway, avoiding conversations about how ill I feel, my goal for this blog was to reach a point where I had enough followers and subscribers that I could reach out to publishers and request copies of books to review. If successful, not only would I save some money (every book lover and student’s dream), but it would mean I will have reached a point where my blog and my thoughts are deemed important enough to facilitate.

That’s why, this year, I hope to start accumulating more followers – which means, on my side of things, I need to make a serious effort and dedication to keep everyone reading interested. I want to be the person proud to ‘plug’ their blog because they think it’s good, rather than just forcing all my friends to click that follow button to help me out. I think that’s one of the reasons that I don’t ever post my blog on facebook – I mean, sure, I’ll shove it into my description on Twitter and Instagram, but other than that I try not to draw attention to it. I want to know that people are reading it because they chose to, not out of obligation to my incessant ‘plugging’.

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Back to resolutions, I’m going to try and keep you all updated on how I’m getting on – and get some reviews to you as well. I already owe you a review for ‘Neverwhere’ by Neil Gaiman (it’s good, people) and ‘A Little Life’ (it’s sad, people) although the latter may or may not be appearing on a friend’s website, but I’ll keep you posted.

So far this year, I’ve finished ‘A Little Life’, ‘The Little Prince’, ‘The Score’ and am currently reading ‘A Moveable Feast’. After I’ve finished this by Hemingway, I’m going on to ‘The Martian’ which I am ridiculously excited for and not at all embarrassed that I bought it for my Mum for Christmas 1. Because I knew it was a great book and 2. Because I wanted to read it. If I manage to finish the Martian this month, that would mean a total of 5 books (Despite the fact that ‘The Little Prince’ was very short). That sounds like progress to me, alright.

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Finally, I want to know what you think. So let me know what you want to see from me – be that reviews, posts about kindles, discussions on reviewing books for websites (man do I have stories about bad books from that), or other odd posts, such as the previous best booky gifts.

Good luck to you all for the New Year, especially if you’ve set your own book goal – let’s make it a good one.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

‘Original’ is a word I really don’t like, mainly because it’s the word my lecturers use. ‘Try and have an original idea’, ‘All you have to do is have something original’, ‘You need something original’. I mean, what even is original? I want to say yes, of course, let me just grab my hat of original ideas and pull one out for you. Is anything really original any more? Most books and films and essays and what-nots have been inspired by other books and films and essays and what-nots. You can’t stop yourself from being influenced or inspired by something.

This is the mindset I approach when reading most books. As a writer and a reader, I’m always interested to see if I can see what inspired them or what the book is like. For example, earlier this year I read Vicious by V.E Schwab and in my review I mentioned how incredible it was to recognise the retelling of Frankenstein. Then you have Frankenstein itself which is inspired by the myth of Prometheus. Everything is just one beautiful cycle.

Then came Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children;, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here – one of whom was his own grandfather – were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

I’ve been meaning to pick up this book for a while, and it’s been sitting on my shelf for over a month now. As it’s main genre is ‘horror’ (at least, that’s where we shelve it at work), I decided it would be a great read for Halloween – and that’s the day that I finished it, funnily enough.

The book astounded me, to put it lightly. I just found it so clever, and mesmerising, and enchanting, and just beautiful. The writing is fantastic, and the concept of the book is just so, dare I say original, that I just fell in love with it. However I was completely unaware that all of the weird and wonderful photos that are spattered throughout the book are actually real. Yes, the photo of a girl floating and the baby levitating are real. And somehow, Ransom Riggs collected all of these marvellous photos and managed to weave together a story out of them. It’s just so incredibly imaginative and new and exciting. I want to meet the author just to shake his hand and tell him that I think he’s a genius and one day I want to be him. Well, like him, but you get the idea.

I seem to be getting into the habit of not knowing that much about the books I start to read. All I knew for this one is that it was about children who had some kind of gifts, like X-Men, and it was classed at Waterstones as horror. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect as I started the book, but as soon as you start to see photos and hear descriptions of the peculiar children you’re completely swept away. There is also a later concept introduced in the book called a ‘loop’, and so I don’t spoil anything I just want to say to those of you who do know the book: how bloody clever an idea was that? Again, I just want to say that Ransom Riggs is a genius. And I want his talent.

Interestingly enough, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the protagonist of the book. There were times where I wanted to like him, but most of the time I just wanted to yell at him. He just annoyed me for some reason, the exact justification for it still unknown to me, but that didn’t particularly detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel. Usually for me, if I don’t like the main character I’m set against the whole book. I think it was probably because this book doesn’t feel just like Jacob’s journey to discovery, but our own. I was desperate to know about his grandfather’s history for my own benefit, not Jacob’s. Never mind whatever drama you’re dealing with, let’s just keep exploring and – no, Jacob, why are you going back to town? Get your arse out of bed and go find out what’s going on because I swear if you whine one more time I’m going to find my way into the book and shake some sense into you.

If you’re interested at all in a book like this, and even if you’re not, you should read it. The photos really add such depth to the book, and for moments I can’t help but puzzle over what their true story is – Ransom sells this story, so I like to think that something similar actually happened. At least one thing is for sure – if there is such a thing as an original idea, this is it.

The Night Circus

Every now and then you come across a book that reminds you why it is that you adore reading. A few of my friends had recommended The Night Circus so I’d bought it, yet it remained on my ‘To Be Read’ shelf for quite a while. I picked it up just before exams and so read the first few chapters before having to put it down again, leaving the rest as a post-exam reward. Honestly, I had no idea what I was expecting when I started this book – all I knew was that it was a circus that travelled around the world, open only at night. Personally, I think that was possibly the best way to approach this masterpiece of a book.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads:

Opens at Nightfall

Closes at Dawn

As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears.

Le Cirque des Rêves

The Circus of Dreams.

Now the circus is open.

Now you may enter.

This blurb perfectly prepares you for the fantastical world you’re about to discover, filled with mystery and intrigue. If I had to sum this book up with one word, it would be ‘enchanting’. I’m wary of saying anything more about the actual plot of the novel, as really it’s about discovering for yourself and trying to figure out what on earth is going on as you read.

I think my favourite thing about this book is the world that Erin creates. When I do my own writing, I often struggle to add enough detail about a particular scene and gloss over minor details – clearly, this is not something Erin Morgenstern does. Every setting is filled with enough description to help you visualise such a wondrous place, yet not so much that it deters you from reading more. I think it’s a combination of the imaginative scenes, the wonderful characters and that constant element of mystery which allow this book to be such a masterpiece.

I would recommend this book to anyone, and especially if you’re interested in a little bit of magic or fantasy. I know that I’ve barely said anything about this book other than how great it is, but that’s because I don’t want to ruin it for other readers! With something like The Night Circus, you just need to go pick it up and read it to see for yourself, then shove it in everyone’s face and scream, ‘You must read this book!’.

So, Miss Morgenstern, I bestow upon you five glimmering, fantastical stars – and also a request that this is made into a movie. Please.

Introductions and All I Know Now

Hi everyone and welcome to Always Love to Read….a Lot. If you want to know a bit about me, visit the ‘About El’ page or drop a comment below if there’s a question burning on your mind, such as ‘What is your favourite flavour of Ben &Jerry’s Ice cream?’. (The answer is Caramel Chew Chew, of course). This blog is the product of another, my original site alwayslovetowrite which was a place where, obviously, I wanted to write. With writing comes reading, and as alwayslovetowrite has become a sort of online diary, I decided I needed a different place to geek out about books. Which brings us to now.

So to kick this off, I’d like to start with a book that released last month and is already the Sunday Times #1 best seller: All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher. Carrie is known for being a YouTube sensation, singer, songwriter, actress, Eponine in Les Mis in London and now an author. I personally first discovered Carrie on YouTube, and then I was hooked by the bubbly personality which always helped to brighten my day. I’m unashamed that at eighteen-going-on-nineteen, having Carrie as a role model helped me to keep strong on days when I wanted to give up. I, like everyone else, wanted to be her best friend, to hear all her stories and soak up all her advice. Now, with All I Know Now, that’s possible.

We all know that growing up is hard to do, and sometimes the only thing that makes it better are the reassuring words of someone who has walked that bumpy road just a few steps ahead of you and somehow ended up as a fully-functioning adult. Carrie Hope Fletcher is that person. Thanks to her phenomenally popular YouTube videos, Carrie has become an ‘honorary big sister’ to hundreds of thousands of young people who turn to her for advice, friendship and, most of all, the knowledge that things will get better.

Carrie has created a safe and positive space for young people to connect and share their hopes and concerns online, and now she will share her most personal thoughts and experiences in her first book, ALL I KNOW NOW. It includes Carrie’s thoughts on some of the topics she’s asked about most regularly: bullying, body image, relationships and perhaps the scariest question of all: what does the future hold for me? With warmth, wit and a sprinkling of hard-won wisdom, Carrie will provide the essential tools for growing up gracefully . . . most of the time.

My only negative about this book is that it wasn’t published sooner. Andrew Kaufman’s comment that this is a ‘best friend in book form’ is spot on. As you read, Carrie’s voice shines through in every word and will have you laughing with her, crying for her and loving every second. I want to tell girls younger than me to go out and grab this book, read every word and carry it with you whenever you need some advice. It’s easy enough to hear someone tell you that they’ve been through what you have, but to read about it in a raw, nothing held back prose. There are so many times through secondary school when I couldn’t help but wonder ‘am I the only one’ and want to go to bed, pull my duvet over my head and hide from the world. To read Carrie’s experiences and find some so like my own – and others completely not – it helped to see my own from a different perspective. It’s of course easy to say now that I would have done differently, but I’d like to think that if I had read Carrie’s book when I needed it, maybe i would have been able to deal with my problems more easily. Hell, there were even chapters on how to apologise that I approached thinking ‘I know this’, but when I finished I realised that there’s a lot I still don’t know.

Sure, if you’re a girl or boy in school then I’d recommend this book with all my heart and if you’re not in school, then I’d recommend this book anyway. It doesn’t matter how old you are – anyone can read this book and end up with a smile on your face. After seeing Carrie’s journey through YouTube, famously achieving her childhood dream of becoming Eponine in the West End, she was already inspiring. The awe only increased when one of my best friends took me to see her last week in Les Miserables and then to briefly meet her at her book signing (both of which were incredible). But often when you have these public figures, you forget that they were once young kids and teenagers who dealt with bullies just like you. This book is more than just a few pages bound together – it’s a place to turn to when you’re feeling down, when you need advice or even when you just want a bit of a giggle.

Thank you Carrie – I hope to read more from you soon.

You’ve got five, big, fat, shining stars.

That’s all from me today. Thanks for reading and, if you so wish, leave a comment, a favourite or even subscribe – there’s more books to come.