Books, Reading Challenge

2018 Reading List – The Beginnings

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And so we have reached the final day of the month, which can only mean one thing:

I go into full on Christmas mode from tomorrow. Kind of.

I’m weirdly feeling more festive this year than I ever have before like the Ice Queen is melting or some shit. I don’t know what to do with it. It might be because life has gotten super stressful these past few weeks and I’m seeking solace in the festive cheer.

But anyway, to round out this bookish month I’m going to start talking about next year’s reading list. I’ve still got 5 books left to read this year and there are officially less than 5 weeks left of the year so I really need to get a move on there. However the other day I found myself slowly starting to piece together 2018’s reading list…because the TBR list is never done. In fact it just gets longer.

Every day it gets longer.

This list isn’t fully formed because for the most part I’m just currently looking at the books that I actually possess and if I think about it too much then I focus on it too much and then the fear sets in because like I said, this year’s hasn’t finished yet, and yet I’m thinking about all the possibilities for the future. It all gets a bit too much.

But the list has been slightly formed and this is where we are at:

1) The Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard – Look, this was on my list anyway, but I bought it when I did because I stumbled across a display of it and they were all gorgeous special editions that I felt compelled to buy. And so I did.

2) London Fields, Martin Amis – I’ve already said why I bought this, and therefore it has to be on the list because otherwise the purchase will have been pointless.

3) The Girl of Ink and Stars, Kiran Millwood Hargrave – Again, I bought this on a whim, so I gotta read it.

4) Fight Cub, Chuch Palahniuk – I am actually quite looking forward to reading this book.

5) A Darker Shade of Magic, VE Schwab – Again, I am quite looking forward to reading this, I love me a fantasy book.

6) Shockaholic, Carrie Fisher – I’m so reluctant to read this because I feel like getting involved with Fisher is gonna make me emo, but also I really wanna get in there.

7) Postcards From he Edge, Carrie Fisher –  I am just gonna go on a Fisher thing next year I can sense it. These are just the ones that I own, there are still 5 more out there.

8) Big Little Lies, Lianne Moriarty – I’ve obviously seen the TV adaptation and so it was inevitable that I was going to  read the book.

9) The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood –  This book has been on my list for years and it was finally handed to me by R after she finished reading it in August sometime, so the time will finally be upon us.

10) the princess saves herself in this one, amanda lovelace – I really do need to read more poetry. And this is currently the only one that I have.

11) The Uncommon Type, Tom Hanks – I 100% bought this because it was signed by Tom Hanks and also because I was intrigued by what his style of writing would be like.

12) The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafron – This book was gifted to me by someone at work and they said that they lost a whole day reading it and that they thought I would like it. It’s gonna be an early read I think because they are interested in what I think about it.

13) Throne of Glass, Sarah J Maas – I do not own this book, but I do have the 5th one and well I’ve gotta start somewhere with this to justify that ridiculous purchase (I’ve mentioned this before…it’s signed.)

14) All That She Can See, Carrie Hope Fletcher – I was a bit undecided on her first novel but I’ve read the first couple of chapters and I am intrigued by the concept, so I’m looking forward to cracking this open.

15) The Little Friend, Donna Tartt – I have loved her other two books and I am so excited by this one just because I love her style of writing.

16) Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert – I’m gonna give in to the hype and read this book. I got  pretty edition and everything.

17) Caraval, Stephanie Garber – This has literally only just physically entered my life. I forgot that I pre-ordered the paperback version of it because I did it months ago and well, the publication date has just swung on around.

18) Now I Rise, Kiersten White – I am so excited to read this sequel, I loved the first book so damn much and I cannot wait to get back to Lada and Radu.

19) Godsgrave, Jay Kristoff  – Same as above. I need Mia and her world back in my life.

20) Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen – I’m gonna give this another try. It’s time.

21) The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck – Again, it’s also time to give this another try.

And that’s it so far. And these are just the books that I currently own. I haven’t even really thought about the ones that I don’t currently, but want to. Like the rest of the Lunar Chronicles series, the Miss Peregrine series, any of the books that are on that TBR list and that Unread list that is what started this whole mess. These are just the ones physically available to me at the drop of a hat. And I have a few books on pre-order already for next year. And it’s all just too much.

There’s just a lot of books…

Help.

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Books, Reading Challenge

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

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This title is way more dramatic than necessary to be honest.

I basically run out of ideas and then had to frantically search for them on the internet because I was one post short for the month. And then I found it.

I am going to list my top 3 favourite books from this year (so far) and also my 3 least favourites. Now I am fully aware that I have still got 4 and a half books left to go with this year, but I know what lies ahead of me and I don’t really see them being contenders for either of these (I’m reserving judgement on Florence Grace because I don’t actually know whether I do hate it, I only read 20 pages and the book just didn’t come at the right time). So I feel like I am in a place to do a mini final, semi overall, review of my 2017 read books.

Top 3

1) The Graces – My gosh did I love this book. It was all things witchy and dark and so many other things that I just love about literature and all that jazz. Ugh, it introduced me to so many great new characters and a delightful new world and I am so excited for the sequel.

2) And I Darken – I fell in love with this book so hard and fast it was just so great. It’s kind of a genre that I don’t really tend to mess with as I try and avoid things that play too much with historical elements because that’s just not my thing. I dunno, a module at uni nearly 6 years ago really did history in for me and I just can’t cope with it or something.

3) The Muse – Okay, so it was a toss up between this and Nevernight but this won. It took me on so many twists and turns. It caused me to react so many times and it made me feel some kind of way. It also gave me a chance to return to Burton’s writing.

Bottom 3

1) Holding up the Universe – It’s not that I hated this book, but also it didn’t really leave any impact on me at all. It wasn’t a YA book that I feel needs to be read. Or at least it wasn’t when I read it.

2) Our Chemical Hearts Kind of the same as above.

3) Grimm’s Fairytales – Honestly, there was no need for me to read of them to be brutally honest. They made no impact for the most part and the ones that I knew, well I know them pretty damn well. It took me weeks to make it from cover to cover and I’m so glad that it’s finally done and I never have to do it again…

And there we have it.

I mean honestly I have loved quite a few books that I’ve read this year, so I feel like that Top 3 is an ever changing beast. But at this present moment in time this is where we stand.

Do you have any favourite/least favourite reads?

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2017 Reading Challenge, Book 46 – Freedom

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I’ve finally reached reached the point where I went ‘right on track’ for my reading challenge for the first time all year because those two weeks out of my regularly scheduled programming took me slightly off course. However, I feel kind of confident that I’ve got a good enough plan in place right now that I can still get this done…

Anyway, the next book in question is:

2017 Reading Challenge, Book 46, Freedom
2017 Reading Challenge, Book 46, Freedom

I tried reading this book earlier this  year but it was just too much for me and so I think I switched to something kind of light and fluffier. But of all the books that I had left this was the one that spoke to me loudest and I went in with a slight worry that this would just send me straight into a reading slump which is what happened the first time.

Luckily it didn’t. In fact it had me hooked right away this time. And held onto me until it came to an end.

The story itself is split into 5 parts as it were. All in 3rd person, although two parts are a slightly skewed 3rd person and those are the parts that intrigued me the most. The autobiographies of Patty. One because they were told in the 3rd person and that threw me slightly because I kept forgetting that it was her version of events. In fact it took me until I was nearly finished the first section of her autobiography that I remembered that she was writing about herself. It was a really interesting take on the genre as a whole. And it was the point where I really got invested with this book.

The whole notion of this book is basically, funnily enough, about freedom and what it means to have it. The way that it affects all the characters is interesting. For most of them it ends kind of badly. And then there’s Joey. Who somehow manages to land flat on his feet despite getting involved in quite the shit storm.

I liked how realistic these relationships felt between all the characters. The familial stains and the way that they ebbed and flowed felt kinda true to life. The relationship between Patty and Walter felt kind of heartbreakingly real. The idea that Patty choose him and married him just because it was the convenient option and I guess the safest one. The insight that Patty’s autobiography gave regarding their relationship provided a level of interest that I don’t think you would get from something that was solely 3rd person narrative. But then when it did shift to 3rd person and you saw Walter’s side but at the point where the damage had kind of already done and he was falling in love with someone else.

Seeing Richard through his own eyes as it were painted all the things that were talked about by Patty in a new light. You at times sympathised with him and at times you kind of hated him because for some reason he did not seem to at any point to have grown and changed from who he was. But then also, he did change. It was in some ways kind of subtle but then when it happened it was clear. He had moved forward in ways that Patty hadn’t. And then Patty kind of caught up.

It moved in cycles like that and in some ways that felt like a reflection of life.

The sisters of Patty that had everything growing up and all the support but somehow never found their way. The daughter that was stuck between two parents. The son who thought he had it all figured out but still almost  lost everything and sort of fell into a marriage that eventually benefited him in some way. The father who finally thought he had a new lease on life and had reached contentment only to have it snatched away from him and end up in a war against cats. The mother who found and lost herself repeatedly but eventually seemed to get back on track and stay there.

The characters were so well thought out and so complex. There was never a moment when you really thought any of them were either good or bad people. Even when Walter was banging on about overpopulation and how it was ruining the planet and killing birds it was easy to see where he was coming from.

All the storylines wove together and gave you a sense in some ways of what it means to be free. There were no huge reveals of any huge plot twists or anything, don’t get me wrong, there was a twist. But it wasn’t a huge turning point or anything, it was more just like a footnote reminding you that the universe is cruel and just when you think things might be going your way it throws a curveball at you.

This book is unexpectedly deep, it really makes you think about things in a way that is almost quiet. It just happens in the background while you’re moving through and then suddenly it’s over and you kind of wonder what happened to the last 600 pages (yeah, it’s a long’un). This book was a Secret Santa gift last year and came into my life from someone who put Franzen up there as their favourite author, and I can see why.

The writing style is great and evocative and no word feels out of place. It takes you with it through this slight exploration of the human race on a relatitvely small scale and even when you think a character might be slightly pointless you’re proved wrong because they prove their place and how they fit in with the puzzle piece almost instantly.

The ending was good. I felt satisfied and maybe a little bit sad by the time I reached the final page and the sentence. It felt like a version of a full circle was achieved, but somehow also like it could lend itself to the same events that had just unfolded over the last 600 pages.

I would recommend.

4/5 stars.

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2017 Reading Challenge, Book 43 – Anansi Boys

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And with today I (finally) bring you my penultimate Neil Gaiman book of the year (although it has come after the final Gaiman book of the year because I could get this one written for whatever reason). I put off reading the last two books because I didn’t want to say goodbye to him too soon for the year. But then it became apparent that Neil Gaiman was all my heart wanted to read and so read them I did.

2017 Reading Challenge, Book 43, Anansi Boys
2017 Reading Challenge, Book 43, Anansi Boys

I got to dip my toe back into the American Gods world. Just a little. And it was glorious.

The vibe of this book just made me so happy. I was sucked into this world again instantly and it kept me hooked until the final pages.

I loved Fat Charlie and how he found himself stuck in the middle of this whole fiasco courtesy of his deceased father and newfound brother. The book was very much finding it’s footing before Spider came onto the scene and it was that that made the story feel grounded before it all kind of went to shit. And by that point I was very attached to Fat Charlie and then could not help but feel sorry for him from the moment when he ended up on that night out that all went to heck.

Spider was an interesting character from the moment he stepped onto the screen after being summoned by, surprise surprise, a spider. He then was super interesting because he had those Godlike tendencies and the way that he came into this world and how that affected everything. I loved that room that he had in Charlie’s apartment and how it became this ever changing thing. I kind of thought he was a bit of a dickhead but then discovered that by the time things started to go wrong for him I actually did care and that whole section where he was effectively being tortured was a real struggle to get through and I was rooting for him to get through the other side…alive. That part was a bit hit and miss though and it did leave me figuratively speaking of the edge of my seat.

The women in this book were something else.

They just exceeded all of my expectations, especially because the main protagonist is male, sometimes it’s very easy for the whole narrative to feel very male with the occasional token female thrown in for good measure. But the women in this in a lot of ways drove the story forward. There would have been very little of Fat Charlie’s storyline if he hadn’t gone back to Florida and ended up talking to Mrs Higgler again.

I quite liked Rosie. I liked how she interacted between both Charlie but mostly Spider. I found that relationship, although slightly suspect in the beginning, a fascinating aspect of the narrative. I especially liked how she came into her own at the end and kind of defied any expectation that I had for her to be honest. i liked that she surprised me. And so did her mother actually.

I loved Daisy. I loved her determination. And her strength. I loved how she followed her gut. And I went through phases with Maeve, but as with every character in Gaiman’s works there is no pointless character and everything falls into place eventually.

Ummmm the Bird Woman. She terrified me. She was hardly there but she was terrifying. And brutal.

One final mention to Graham Coats who I was convinced was just a bumbling idiot and then suddenly he somehow proved me to be correct, but also with a dark side. I didn’t really see it coming and then it happened and it all made perfect sense because just of course that would happen. And then I kind of remembered all the things that he done prior to that and how he was covering all of his tracks and pinning it all on Fat Charlie/Spider and it actually all made sense in the end. But it was a quiet kind burn of a story that came to a head violently and then set the course for the rest of novel.

I’m gonna talk about the ending just because I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention them in some way. I liked it and I also didn’t.  It just felt a little bit sticky. But it wasn’t so bad that I ended up hating the book completely because that has happened before.

Overall however, I loved it. I love that whole play between the worlds of the Gods and the worlds of the ‘world’. It was magical. I mean ridiculous what with the waterfalls and the possession and the flamingoes and it had less Gods but the impact remained the same. And some really great characters that stuck with me for a while after I had finished the book, I’m always gonna love that.

4/5 stars.

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2017 Reading Challenge Book 45 – Grimm’s Fairytales

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I gave you far warning that this month would be very heavy on the book reviews right? Because I am very aware that it has almost been nothing but, but well I had a lot of catching up to do. I’ve done a lot of reading since August and not a lot of talking about them in specifics.

So, the next book in question is this one:

2017 Reading Challenge, Book 45, Grimm's Fairytales
2017 Reading Challenge, Book 45, Grimm’s Fairytales

I’ve pushed this book on my reading list so many times since I picked it up in September. I got like a third or something of the way through it before I couldn’t do it anymore and then moved onto my penultimate Neil Gaiman book of the year. Then I shifted to my bonus books for the year because I did not have the heart to go back to this book and finish it.

You’d think it would be a relatively easy book to get through. What I hadn’t anticipated was how long the book actually was in itself, my edition is like 400 pages or something, which I didn’t know at first. Then there is the fact that there is an awful lot of repetition in this thing. I honestly think I read the same story back to back several times with just some slight amendments. And this happened so many times.

I finished so many of them jut confused as to what the hell the moral was even supposed to be and then being mildly impressed that they managed to actually write the same story again and again and get away with it some capacity. And then I kept wondering why I was wasting my time with them in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, some of them are great. But, like it’s the ones that everybody knows about and the ones that get fleshed out in order to become something (like a Disney film). The rest are all just kind of weird. And full of strange stuff. And there’s a lot of people looking for things and being deceived and deceptive and people turning into animals and trying to get turned back. It’s all just very strange and it does nothing for teaching anyone anything I feel.

The ones that I liked were well written. I liked that they were short and sweet but still relatively compact with morals and all that jazz. There just didn’t need to be so many of them. At all.

Apparently some editions of this book can be over 700 pages and that’s just too many pages for a book that is effectively the same story but recycled in many ways.

I would recommend all the ones that you already know from this. Then you can kind of read a couple of other ones and get the jist for the rest of them. I’m being serious. Don’t do the whole thing to yourself. It’s kind of not worth the time and there’s a reason it took me like 2/3 months to get from the first story to the last one.

2/5 stars

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2017 Reading Challenge, Book 44 – The View From the Cheap Seats

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This my last Neil Gaiman book of the year and I was almost so sad about it when I realised that. I’ve had a lot of Gaiman in my life this year and I never really thought about it coming to an end.

But it did.

And it came to an end with this:

J8NN614RO915
J8NN614RO915

Now I knew that this was a non-fiction book. I just didn’t really know what the exact set up of it was. Turns out it was just a collection of his non-fiction writing, be they introductions that he has written for books, speeches he has given or interviews that he did for various things.

It was full of things that I really needed to read in the run up to Nano (let’s not talk about that one though. I mean I will, but not right now. The relationship remains complicated.). There was a lot of inspirational stuff, there was a lot of stuff in there that meant that I just added to my ever growing reading list, there was just a lot of stuff in it.

A lot of great stuff.

The kind of stuff that just reaffirms your belief in something. I don’t even know what exactly, but it just soothed some part of my soul.

I love the worlds that Gaiman creates, I love getting to fall into them and seeing what is going to happen with them. His non-fiction work is funnily enough similar in that respect. Only it’s grounded in a bit more reality.

It talks about genre and writing and other authors/musicians in such a gorgeous way that it’s hard not to be somewhat enthralled by it all.

For example, there is a heavy focus on sci-fi in this, which for the most part is not a genre I read all that often. I mean I do and I usually love it, but it’s just not high on my list of go to books when I go to pick up a new book. But making my way through this book I found myself more intrigued by it as a genre. There is a foundation for me to build on. Starting points for me to go through. I ended up with a well compiled list that were sold to me so well just by the way that Gaiman spoke about them that it just felt natural.

It gave me a different perspective on fantasy as well, which is a genre that I read, but I tend to be relatively safe with it. I stick with what I kind of know and for that reason a lot of the worlds that are created in the books I read have a lot of similarities and I don’t tend to venture into high fantasy partly out of fear. Again this book changed those views somewhat. In that it makes me want to dip my toe in slightly deeper fantastical waters. Again, this book provided some kind of foundation for that.

It gave me a perspective on some music that to be honest I’ve never really thought about before. It changed the way that I viewed music in terms of lyrics and things. It sort of fuelled a different appreciation for music just by the way that Gaiman talks about it.

That’s the thing that I love so much about this is just getting to swim in all of Gaiman’s thoughts on things and getting to feel his appreciation for them. Finding out what fuels other people and getting to see/hear/read them talk about something that they care about is one of my favourite things, which means that this book was just right up my street.

If you want to read some non-fiction, have a particular interest in science fiction or just want your faith in literature restored then I would recommend this book in a heartbeat. Especially if you love Neil Gaiman in the first place. But if you only read one part of this book then make it the Make Good Art piece. And if you love Terry Pratchett then read the last story, although be warned it may break your heart a little….

4/5 stars

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Bonus Book Review – When Dimple Met Rishi

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Last month I went away for a week and none of the books that were left on my reading list for this year sounded appealing enough to make the trip with me, plus they were all huge and I didn’t want to be weighed down by them. So I did what any normal person would do and took 3 different books all under 400 pages with me instead, because I’ve bought a lot of books this year and well, I did that mainly because I wanted to read them at some point.

The book in question today is the most recent book that I impulse bought when I made my last trip to Waterstones Piccadilly. Although I will admit that I did kind of search for it a bit and it wasn’t as impulsive as the special edition of The Red Queen that I bought because it was just too pretty to walk away from.

Bonus Book Review, When Dimple Met Rishi
Bonus Book Review, When Dimple Met Rishi

I started this book on a two hour train journey from Doncaster to Filey and come the end of that journey I was 160 pages deep. It was the exact kind of fluffy rom-com-esque read I needed when I was half asleep and wanted something to do. I then finished it a couple of afternoons later feeling all warm and fuzzy about it all.

This book isn’t going to reinvent the wheel. You can pretty much tell the plot from a mile off. But the getting to the conclusion is so much fun.

I love Dimple. From the outset. There was just something about her that I identified with from the very first few pages. I loved how she knew exactly what she wanted and she was willing to work hard for it, regardless of what the world around her might have wanted her to do instead. She pretty much never lost sight of that, except for, of course, when sometimes Rishi got in the way.

Speaking of, I also grew to quite like Rishi. I found him frustrating at times, but I think that was just because I felt like I also could relate to him as well. The whole going down the practical route as opposed to the creative one because of…well, practicality. I was almost a little bit annoyed as the book came to a close because I thought it was going to have a mildly unhappy ending in terms of what he was going to pursue for further education but that turned out to not be the case, so I breathed a sigh of relief of that. Like I said, this book followed a formula.

It had a happy ending.

It did also make me almost cry, when Dimple was talking to her mother about being proud of her and all that jazz I nearly lost it. In some ways it mirrors a conversation that I had with my mum a few years back, in which I did also almost lose it then too.

There were elements of this book that really resonated with me in some way. The idea of being ‘other’ and how that reflects the way that people look at you or treat you. The way that judgement can come from within your own community because of the way that you act and how it is viewed as either ‘right’ or wrong’. The last time something struck me in that way in the same way that this did since Noughts and Crosses was a long time ago now. It’s just not something that I am used to being confronted with. Which on the one hand is on me for not actively seeking stories with more POC characters in it that are both the protagonists and interact outside of their race, if that makes sense, but then is also because I feel like I just don’t come across it a lot. I mentioned it the other day, but it took me so long to twig that pretty much all the characters were black because that’s not the way I default to think about characters (with the exception of Hermione Granger, because that hair of hers man, I have it on my head, it’s never tame).  But that’s a whole different thing.

All in all, I would recommend this book. It’s fluffy. It’s frothy. It’s the kind of warm that comes with watching When Harry Met Sally (for me anyway, insert your fave rom-com here if you have one). It’s comfortable. And that’s never a bad thing.

4/5 stars.

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