Rapid Fire Reviews (5)

Since I’ve found that I read faster than I can get around to writing full reviews of each book, I prefer to do mini reviews that reflect my gut reactions rather than being too analytical. All titles are linked to their Goodreads pages.

A Monster Calls. Patrick Ness.A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I had heard of this book. I knew there was a film. I knew there were beautifully illustrated editions. But I didn’t know what it was about. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have read this book, because Conor’s mum is dying of cancer, and so was mine at the time I read it. I never expected a fictional monster to be the one to tell me what I needed to hear, but that’s the power of truly great storytelling. As the monster tells us, “Stories are important. They can be more important than anything, if they carry the truth.” This beautiful story carries more than just truth. It carries compassion, hope and the comfort of knowing that it’s okay to let go. Patrick Ness has done an incredible job. If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would.

All the Birds in the SkyAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

I really hate giving books bad reviews, but I honestly can’t find anything good to say about this one. I don’t mind books that combine different genres (science fiction and fantasy in this case), but this one was a mess of poorly connected concepts that either didn’t make sense, didn’t flow well together, or were just weird for the sake of it. The writing itself was very poor and I found myself frequently either cringing or frowning with some of the dialogue and amateurish metaphors (the sex scene was one of the worst examples of this and read like it was written by an inexperienced teenager who had read too many badly written fan fiction stories, despite the characters involved being experienced adults). The overall narrative didn’t flow well at all and events seemed to jump around without explanation or clear connections. I’m someone who feels the need to always finish a book, even if I’m not enjoying it, so I stuck it out for the whole 430 pages, but unfortunately this one will not be staying in my collection.

The Blackbird SingularityThe Blackbird Singularity by Matt Wilven

Every so often I like to read a book about mental health to increase my understanding of conditions I don’t have personal experience with. This one was a very well written account of one man’s life with bipolar disorder and the effects of his decision to stop taking his medication after discovering that his wife is pregnant with their second child – an emotional revelation given that their first son died. This decision allows him to forge ahead with his creative writing and to feel things more vividly than before, but it also causes problems with his marriage and other areas of his life. There are times when you’re not sure if what you’re reading is real or part of Vince’s delusions. Sometimes he isn’t aware of the distinction himself, although he accepts that he can’t always trust his perceptions. This kind of narrative gives a great insight into what it’s like to live with bipolar. It reminded me of The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer.

Grief is the Thing with FeathersGrief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

Considering that I read this less than 3 weeks after my mother’s death, I was expecting this book to resonate with me. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it at all. It’s experimental in terms of narrative style and word choice, and, for want of a better term, it was just too weird for me to feel any emotional connection with it. The concept was very interesting and a unique way of exploring the complex concept of grief, but the execution of the idea just didn’t work for me. Considering that I’m still in the early stages of processing my own grief, I’m willing to accept the possibility that I’m not in the right frame of mind to appreciate or fully engage with this book, so I may give it another read in the future.

Rapid Fire Reviews (4)

Since I’ve found that I read faster than I can get around to writing full reviews of each book, I prefer to do mini reviews that reflect my gut reactions rather than being too analytical. All titles are linked to their Goodreads pages.

Lexicon CoverLexicon by Max Barry

I was intrigued by the idea of a science fiction thriller based on the concept that words can be used as weapons to persuade and destroy. In this world, people can be organised into segments and controlled (compromised) by specific combinations of obscure words. The wielders of these words are the Poets, members of a secret organisation that controls knowledge and use of the words. Emily and Wil appear to be on opposite sides of a conflict within the organisation, but nothing in this world is what it seems. One of the things I loved about this book was that it gave me lots of “a-ha!” moments when I could connect the small clues and figure out key plot points. I won’t give too much away, but the way the book is structured and told from the perspective of two different characters is significant to the story and makes it even more exciting. There is suspense, conspiracy, romance, danger, interesting explorations into the power and structure of language, along with well-developed characters and a satisfying conclusion. I loved it.

The Disappearance Boy CoverThe Disappearance Boy by Neil Bartlett

There are books that are character-driven, books that are plot-driven, and books that manage to be both. This one definitely tries to be character-driven, which means it should feature interesting and engaging characters with compelling stories to tell. Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of them and found them annoying and uninteresting. The second person narrative really put me off and left little room for my imagination. The narrator was so busy telling me exactly what to think and pay attention to that they didn’t give me the chance to become immersed in the story. A really disappointing read for a book that seemed promising.

Nasty Women CoverNasty Women by Various Authors

I consider myself to be liberal and open-minded, but this collection opened my mind even further and gave me new perspectives I hadn’t considered. I didn’t connect with all the essays, but each one definitely had a distinctive and unique voice behind it and wove an intricate tapestry of what the world is like for women in 2017. My favourite was Jen McGregor’s ‘Lament: Living with the Consequences of Contraception’. In addition to speaking to the reader, she also spoke directly to the Depo-Provera contraceptive she was forced to stop using due to health reasons. Some elements of her story are very similar to my own, and I could feel her struggle through her words. A fantastic collection I would highly recommend to everyone.

The Jungle CoverThe Jungle by Pooja Puri

I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of this book as I bought it at the Society of Young Publishers Conference in Edinburgh a few months ago. The cover really drew my eye and the plot sounded intriguing. I can’t say that it was a terribly engrossing story, but it was well written and easy to read. Rather than a complex plot with a satisfying ending, this book presented a fictional snapshot of life in the Calais refugee camp. It’s about the people more than the politics and the struggles they face having run from one bad situation only to find themselves in another. By the end of the story, most of the characters were essentially in the same place as they were at the beginning, but maybe that’s the point. It illustrates the endless cycle of the refugee crisis and the shattered hopes and dreams of those who find themselves in such desperate circumstances.

Rapid Fire Reviews (3)

My third (and hopefully final!) attempt to make this a regular feature on my blog. I’ve found that I read faster than I can get around to writing full reviews of each book, so I prefer to do mini reviews that reflect my gut reactions rather than being too analytical. All titles are linked to their Goodreads pages.

the-miniaturist-coverThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

This book came highly recommended from friends and colleagues and my local indie bookseller (who said it was the best book she had read in 2014, high praise indeed). There are excellent explorations of the female family dynamic and the politics of power, both in the home and in the wider community, including the main character’s personal development as an 18-year-old new wife thrust into a world of lies, societal pressure and the expectations of marriage. There were definitely some parallels to Jane Eyre, which is what I was expecting when I first picked it up. I felt that the conclusion of the novel was a bit anti-climactic and not what I was hoping for, but the lack of definitive answers to my many questions did retain the air of mystery that shrouds the story, particularly the identity and motivations of the Miniaturist, so I suppose the ending did make sense in that regard. While I did really enjoy this one and would recommend it, it wasn’t quite a 5 star book for me.

the-road-headed-west-coverThe Road Headed West: A Cycling Adventure Through North America by Leon McCarron

I don’t normally read any travel writing, so I was quite surprised at myself when I picked this one up, although it probably had something to do with my love of visiting the United States. I’m not one for cycling either, but I thought it sounded like a great way to see a country and I was interested in going along for the ride. McCarron’s writing is engaging, thought-provoking and entertaining. He meets all sorts of weird and wonderful people along the way, who both delight and terrify him, and ultimately help to change his views of the world. I was particularly interested in reading about his impressions and experiences of the parts of the USA that I’ve visited myself (and loved), especially Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, San Francisco and Seattle. His vivid descriptions of the landscape and general vibe of the places left me with a feeling of comforting familiarity, and a fervent desire to see them again someday. You can watch the trailer for the book here.

kids-pf-appetite-coverKids of Appetite by David Arnold

Although I’m certainly not one of those people who thinks that YA novels are only for teenagers, I am guilty of using them as easy-read palate cleansers between other genres. I usually enjoy them, but I don’t tend to become invested in them or feel particularly connected to the characters. Kids of Appetite is one of the better ones and I did find myself wanting to keep reading. The flashbacks made the narrative more interesting, and I liked how all the elements of the plot tied together. The main cast of characters were all distinct individuals and I was happy to join them on their journey. It won’t be going on my favourites shelf and I don’t feel like it’s left a lasting impression, but it was probably the best YA book I’ve read in a long time.

the-circle-coverThe Circle by Dave Eggers

This book has been on my TBR for well over a year and I finally got around to reading it. I found the plot scarily plausible given the direction that the world is heading in. I was more aware of my social media use while I was reading it and I could see how something like The Circle could have grown from the likes of Facebook and Twitter. The ending wasn’t what I was expecting (or hoping), but it did tie in well with the overall message of the story. The social commentary aspect was more transparent than most of the dystopian science fiction novels I’ve read, and there were elements that were too repetitive (I don’t feel that we needed to see Mae answering customer queries quite so many times). That said, it made for addictive, fast-paced reading and I would recommend it. I’m really looking forward to seeing the film adaptation in April (you can watch the trailer for it here).

2017 Resolutions

memory-jars

At this time of year, a lot of us are looking back on the resolutions we made for 2016, and either congratulating ourselves for having accomplished them, or beating ourselves up for failing to live up to our own expectations.

Most of my goals for 2016 were centred around reading, writing and the publishing world. Although I managed to accomplish some of them, my year was derailed pretty early on and I never quite got back on track.

2016 was a really tough year for me and my family, and most of my emotional energy was focused on dealing with losing my granny and supporting my mum through cancer, so my goals fell by the wayside. Normally, I’m the kind of person who is very goal-orientated and doesn’t cope well with failure (even if it’s only self-perceived failure), but, now that the relentless wave of 2016 has finally washed ashore, I’m trying to look at things differently.

Rather than being angry with myself for not achieving everything I wanted to, I’m choosing to be proud of myself for making it through 2016 with my sanity, self-confidence and sense of humour intact. I wouldn’t have managed that when I was younger, so I’m counting it as a solid achievement.

I’m also choosing to believe that 2017 will be better than last year, so I’m setting myself some new goals for the year ahead:

  • I’ve signed up to participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for the second time. Last year, I set myself a goal of 45 books, which turned out not to be attainable, so this year I’m aiming for 30 books. I have a great stack to get started with and I’m looking forward to delving into them. book-stack
  • Last year, I decided to participate in the Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 Reading Challenge to read 12 books in 12 different categories in 12 months. It was a fun idea, but I only managed to read about half of the books on my challenge list (to be honest, I completely forgot about it and just read whatever I felt like). This year, I’m not going to try to stick to a specific list, but rather just aim to read a mix of genres in both fiction and non-fiction.
  • Getting my first short story published last year was a great experience and one I would love to repeat, but my main goal this year is just to write, whether or not I feel like sharing it with others. I didn’t write any fiction at all in 2016, since all my ideas stubbornly refused to make their way from my mind to the page, so I’m hoping to change that this year. There are so many characters running around in my head, a few of them are bound to break free!
  • This blog didn’t get much attention from me last year either, so writing more posts is another goal. The ones that have meant the most to me have been centred around mental health issues, which I’ve been dealing with a lot in the last year. A number of people have told me that those posts have helped them and that they’ve shared them with others, which is fantastic to hear, and it’s given me the confidence to write more along the same lines.

I feel good about these goals and I think they’re realistic and interesting enough for me to achieve, so I’m going to leave it there for now. I hope you all enjoyed bringing in the new year, and I wish you all the best for 2017!

Thoughts on Writing

Writing Apparatus

I recently read an article about my favourite poet Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken’. The poem is widely regarded as a metaphor for the risks and rewards of taking the road less travelled. However, as letters between Frost and the original recipient of the poem reveal, this was not Frost’s intended meaning. Frost had written the poem to his friend, Edward Thomas, to poke fun at the fact that Thomas always expressed regret at not having taken a different path during their country walks together. To Frost’s annoyance, Thomas missed the point and instead praised Frost for having penned such a “staggering” poem.

Frost’s frustration with the misinterpretation of his work is understandable, and something I’ve experienced myself multiple times over the years.

However, in time I’ve come to realise that, just because I’ve written something, doesn’t mean my understanding of it is the only valid one. Anything that is created, be it a story, song, painting, or film, means something different depending on who is experiencing it. I may have arranged the words on the page, but who am I to tell readers where those words should take them?

That’s the wonderful thing about creative works. They are not static. They do not have a singular meaning. Once a story is released from the author’s mind and written down for others to read, the author loses their creative hold over it. They will always have a material hold by virtue of owning the copyright, however, their ability to dictate how their work should be interpreted vanishes as soon as others read it.

Earlier this year, I had a short story published in the Almond Press anthology Apocalypse Chronicles. A number of my friends and family kindly read it, and many of them kept asking me who the character of Tom was based on. I guess it was obvious that Hannah, the protagonist, was loosely based on me, but no one seemed to believe me when I claimed that Tom was not based on any particular person.

At best, he is an amalgamation of a number of the boys I went to high school with, but I had no one specific in mind when I wrote his character. Yet, those readers who know me continue to make that assumption. It’s a peculiar fascination that they seem to fixate on. Surely, this character must be based on someone from my own life, especially since I set the story in my hometown. This seems odd to me, since I wouldn’t be much of a storyteller if I couldn’t conjure up characters from my imagination.

It is a common belief that a writer reveals more about themselves in their work than they intend (the same can likely be said for artists, filmmakers and musicians), and my readers’ preoccupation with finding out who I had based Tom on made me question whether or not I had, subconsciously, based him on someone after all.  (After much thought, I maintain that I didn’t).

It used to annoy me when readers interpreted my writing in a different way than I had intended. As if I had somehow failed to express myself well, or they just didn’t “get it”. Now, I find joy in their various interpretations. If people can read what I write and find more than one meaning, then that means I’ve written something that has layers and can be appreciated in a number of different ways. That’s a compliment, not a criticism.

I write more for myself than anyone else, so my stories and poems will always have particular meaning to me, as I know what I had in mind when I wrote them. That said, it’s nice to know that they can take on a new life when read by someone else, and can have more meaning than I was able to see for myself.

Rapid Fire Reviews

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had much time to write. That really bothers me, so I’m trying to spend this weekend catching up on a few posts. Rather than writing separate reviews for the books I’ve been reading recently, I’m going to do a quick rundown of each of them. I’m calling it a rapid fire review post. Considering how behind I tend to get on my book reviews, this might become a regular feature. I think it’s a good way of going with my gut instincts rather than being too analytical.

All the Bright Places Cover All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

“The story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die.” That line is on the cover and it drew me to the book right away. Violet is dealing with the grief of losing her sister, while Finch is trying to find reasons not to kill himself. When they meet on the ledge of their school’s bell tower, they strike up a friendship that has a profound impact on both of them. I enjoyed the parallel journeys of the two characters. While Violet was rebuilding her life, Finch was rapidly losing control of his. I really liked them both and their struggles felt real and relatable. This isn’t a feel good YA, but it’s definitely worth a read.

 

Our Endless Numbered Days CoverOur Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

Peggy is only eight when her father takes her to live in an isolated cabin in the wilderness, after telling her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. What follows is a fascinating exploration of the father/daughter dynamic and the effects of extreme isolation and deprivation. I did see the twist coming, although I was hoping I was wrong. While I would recommend this book, it was quite disturbing at times, so it’s definitely not for everyone. I really enjoyed it though, and I think Fuller did a great job of dealing with the psychological effects on a young girl who matures into a woman with only a mentally disturbed father for guidance.

 

The Serpent King CoverThe Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

This one came highly recommended from Stefani over at Caught Read Handed. It’s centred around the lives of Dill, who is struggling to escape the prison of his family’s past; Lydia, who has aspirations far beyond the boundaries of her hometown; and Travis, who escapes his violent home life by taking refuge in his love of a Game of Thrones style fantasy series. Up until the twist in the middle of the novel, I was enjoying it well enough but it wasn’t really affecting me emotionally, but the second half had me rooting for the characters and hoping to see them happy. It was a good read overall.

 

The Water-Babies Cover The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley

A fairy tale about a boy who runs away from his cruel employer, gets turned into a water-baby, and has lots of strange adventures in the underwater world. I really didn’t like this book. It was written in 1863, so the style of language was quite different. I studied literature for years at university, so that’s not something that would usually bother me, but in this case I found the style of writing jarring and annoying. My main thought as I was reading it was, “this book is just weird for the sake of it”, and that really didn’t work for me. The talking turnips whose sole purpose was to learn lessons and be examined (or die), were the last straw!

Book Review – Interred with Their Bones

IMAGETitle: Interred with Their Bones (Kate Stanley #1)

Author: Jennifer Lee Carrell

Publisher: Plume

Date: August 2008

Format: Paperback (405 pages)

Synopsis: Jennifer Lee Carrell’s highly acclaimed debut novel is a brilliant, breathlessly paced literary adventure. The action begins on the eve of the Globe’s production of Hamlet when Shakespeare scholar and theatre director Kate Stanley’s eccentric mentor Rosalind Howard gives her a mysterious box, claiming to have made a groundbreaking discovery. Before she can reveal it to Kate, the Globe is burned to the ground and Roz is found dead…murdered precisely in the manner of Hamlet’s father.

Inside the box Kate finds the first piece in a Shakespearean puzzle, setting her on a deadly, high stakes treasure hunt. From London to Harvard to the American West, Kate races to evade a killer and solve a tantalizing string of clues hidden in the words of Shakespeare, which may unlock one of history’s greatest secrets.


This is the second book I’ve read from my Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 Reading Challenge list and came under the category of “A book you own but have never read”.

I didn’t get too far into this story before it began to remind me of The Da Vinci Code and other thriller/mystery novels by the likes of Sam Bourne and Chris Kuzneski. That’s not a bad thing as I really enjoy stories where the characters are on the hunt for artefacts and answers while dodging assassins and various attempts to thwart their quest. I was happy to go along for the ride as they went from one piece of the puzzle to another in this fast-paced action narrative.

Since I’m a big fan of literature and academics, I really appreciated the amount of research that went into writing the book and all the history and theories that were explored, particularly those about the true identity of Shakespeare and the search for his lost plays. I enjoyed following the characters across different continents and through various libraries, archives and private collections to find the evidence they were looking for. There were a few points in the novel when I thought I had a handle on what was going on, but it wasn’t long before the game changed again and the characters were off and running in a new direction.

The main characters, Kate, Ben and Sir Henry, were okay for the story but not particularly memorable and I definitely cared more about the answers to the Shakespeare mysteries than I did about what happened to them. That didn’t really bother me though since the action kept me entertained enough.

Unsurprisingly for the genre, there were some fantastical claims and plot connections which did require me to suspend my disbelief, but I didn’t feel the need to try to separate fact from fiction and instead just went with it. This book made for fun, interesting and addictive reading and I was thoroughly entertained.

Overall Rating: Book Rating Picture Book Rating Picture Book Rating Picture Book Rating Picture My bookworm rating system is explained here.

Other Works by this Author: Carrell has also written a sequel to this book called Haunt Me Still.

Book Review – Ink and Bone

Cover ImageTitle: Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1)

Author: Rachel Caine

Publisher: Allison & Busby Limited

Date: July 2015

Format: Paperback (410 pages)

Synopsis: Knowledge is power. Power corrupts.

In a world where the ancient Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, knowledge now rules the world: freely available, but strictly controlled. Owning private books is a crime.

Jess Brightwell is the son of a black market book smuggler, sent to the Library to compete for a position as a scholar . . . but even as he forms friendships and finds his true gifts, he begins to unearth the dark secrets of the greatest, most revered institution in the world.

Those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn…


I don’t usually start reading a series until all the books have been published, but I decided to make an exception for Ink and Bone because it sounded SO GOOD. Thankfully, I was definitely not disappointed.

The world building was great and I really enjoyed learning about all the different elements. In this world, Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press was never allowed to come to light and the Great Library of Alexandria and its daughter libraries (the Serapeums) control all knowledge via the Codex. Citizens are permitted to own blanks (like eBook readers), that enable them to view copies of books held in the Codex, but will be arrested if they’re caught with an original.

Jess, the central character, is a runner for his father who traffics in illegal original books. He earns a place as a student (Postulant) at the Great Library to compete to become a Scholar. While there, he becomes embroiled in the dangerous secret world behind the public face of the Library which threatens everything, and everyone, he cares about.

He encounters Burners who use Greek Fire to burn books in protest against the Great Library; Obscurists who use alchemy to control the Codex and other elements of society; Garda Soldiers and machines called automatons that defend the library with deadly force; ink-lickers who eat books as the ultimate way to possess them; and many other characters and concepts that work together to create an interesting and complex world for readers to explore.

The conflict between original books and blanks felt like a commentary on physical books vs. eBooks, which was interesting, although certainly not overbearing or obvious if you weren’t looking for it (I do like a good bit of literary analysis!).

In between chapters there were short sections called ‘Ephemera’ which provided extracts of private correspondence taken from the Codex and the Black Archive (where the library stores restricted knowledge). There were quite a few hidden details and surprises in those that helped to make the story even more compelling.

I really liked Jess and many of the other supporting characters (especially General Santi and Postulant Morgan), but my favourite character was definitely Scholar Christopher Wolfe. I hated him at first for the way he treated Jess and the other Postulants, but as more and more of his personal life and history were revealed I ended up really caring about him and sympathising with his struggles. He’s one of those characters who has a lot more depth than is initially apparent and I find I’m emotionally invested in what happens to him in the next book.

One other cool thing I wanted to mention is that the author included a ‘Soundtrack’ section at the back of the book with a list of the songs she listened to while she wrote it. I love this idea as it’s an insight into the author’s creative process and the kind of emotions she was working with. I was especially happy to see Hozier’s Take Me to Church on the list!

I’ll admit that I thought the first couple of chapters were a bit slow and I didn’t become fully immersed in the story until Jess became a Postulant, but once he did the plot really took off and I didn’t want to put the book down. I would definitely recommend it.

The sequel, Paper and Fire, is due out in July this year and I can’t wait to read it!

Overall Rating: Book Rating Picture  Book Rating Picture Book Rating Picture Book Rating Picture Book Rating Picture My bookworm rating system is explained here.

Other Works by this Author: Rachel Caine (who also writes under several other names) is the author of over 40 novels. You can find out more here.


 

Reading, Writing and Resolutions

2016 Reading Resolutions Image

This post is coming a bit later than I wanted, but it’s been a busy start to the year!

I’ve been reflecting a lot about the past year and what I want for 2016. My main focus is buying my first house, which is obviously a huge decision and will take up a lot of my time and energy once the ball gets rolling, but I definitely want more reading and writing to be part of this year.

I’ve come up with a list of goals that I’m hoping will help motivate me. Maybe some of these will inspire you too, especially my fellow bibliophiles!

  • Goodreads Challenge: I’ve never done this before but I wanted to this year so I could track how many books I read and give myself a target to aim for. I’ve gone with 45, which is approximately 4 books per month. Hopefully I can manage that! I’ve read one so far, Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine, which I’ll be reviewing soon.
  • 2016 Reading Challenge: This year I’m taking part in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 Reading Challenge, which is to “read 12 books in 12 different categories in 12 months”. I’m looking forward to diversifying my reading and finally tackling some books I should have read years ago. I wrote a post about it here.
  • Writing Competitions: Last year I entered a competition run by Almond Press to write a short story with an apocalyptic theme. I’m delighted that my story was chosen to be published as part of their anthology which will be released later this year. It’s made me feel more confident as a writer and I’m keen to enter more competitions this year.
  • Memory Jar: I’ve wanted to do this for years but have never gotten around to it. Memories JarI’m a very nostalgic person and love to look back on things past, so having a memory jar where I can keep note of significant events and milestones feels like a great idea. I got mine from Pretty Pink Toes via Amazon.
  • Blog Posts: I don’t post here anywhere near as often as I would like and I want that to change this year. Along with book reviews and general posts, I really want to feature more projects like the Future Library Project that I wrote about in 2014. It was one of my favourite and most popular posts and I love hearing about creative ways of sharing the reading experience, so I would like to share them here too.
  • Literary Events: I already know I’ll be going to a couple of book festivals and publishing conferences this year, but I would also like to attend more events like literary salons, book launches and author events.
  • Writing, Writing, Writing: Above all, I want to write as much as possible. I have a novel idea which is slowly being fleshed out and I would love to do some solid work on it this year. I’m never happier than when I’m writing, so I want it to be a constant theme of 2016.

I hope you’re all having a great start to the year and that it will be a good one!

2016 Reading Challenge

MMD-2016-Reading-Challenge

After New Year I started looking for inspiration to take my 2016 reading in a new and fun direction. I stumbled across the wonderful Modern Mrs Darcy blog and she had exactly what I was looking for.

This challenge is a great motivation for me to finally read some books I’ve had on my TBR for a long time across different genres and time periods.

A book published this year

Star Trek: Voyager – A Pocket Full of Lies by Kirsten Beyer: In case you didn’t know this already, I’m a massive Star Trek fan and my favourite series is Voyager. The post-series novels are fantastic and Beyer, a huge fan herself, knows the characters inside out and is doing an amazing job of continuing their adventures. I can’t wait to read this when it comes out in a few weeks.

A book you can finish in a day

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: I borrowed this from a friend and it’s short enough to read in one day (150 pages). I’ve never read a Man Booker Prize winner before so that’s also a plus point.

A book you’ve been meaning to read

My Antonia by Willa Cather: There were lots of books I could have chosen for this one, but I’m going with My Antonia because it’s been on my TBR for over 10 years and I actually already have it in an anthology of American Literature. One of my favourite quotes comes from this book and I’m really looking forward to understanding it in context.

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton: This one was easy. I bought it almost a year ago from my local bookshop after the owner raved about it and said it was one of the best books she had read all year. I’ve heard good things about it from other people too so I’m looking forward to getting into it.

A book you should have read in school

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: In honour of Modern Mrs. Darcy who created this challenge, I’m going to go with one of the only books I have ever given up on. That was over 10 years ago and it bothers me that I’ve never finished it, so it’s time to give it another shot!

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: My friend Stefani (blogging at Caught Read Handed) reads more than anyone I know and I trust her judgement. When I asked for a recommendation this is what she came up with, which works for me as I saw her raving about it on social media so I was already intrigued!

A book published before you were born

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway: Another one I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, this book was published over 60 years before I was born. I’ve never read any Hemingway, which I feel is a serious omission on my part, so this challenge is the perfect motivation to read one of his novels.

A book that was banned at some point

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou: This book has been banned countless times, particularly in schools and colleges in the US, because of its depictions of rape and race relations. It’s one that I’ve crossed paths with before but never read, so this is my chance.

A book you previously abandoned

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: l can count on one hand the number of books I’ve abandoned in the past and this is one of them. As I explained in an earlier post, I didn’t give up on it because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because of the headspace I was in at the time. I’m looking forward to picking it up again and finishing it this time.

A book you own but have never read

Interned with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell: This book was given to me by one of my friends in August last year and I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. From what she told me I think I’ll really enjoy it.

A book that intimidates you

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: I wouldn’t necessarily say this book intimidates me, but it’s going to need more of my focus and concentration than normal as it’s heavy philosophical non-fiction from 180 AD. I thought about choosing Don Quixote by Cervantes, but it’s HUGE and since I’m not the fastest reader in the world it would probably take up a lot of time I could be using to read other books, so I’ll leave it for another year!

A book you’ve already read at least once

Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew: This one’s a no-brainer. One of my posts from last year explains why this book means so much to me, but needless to say I really want to read it again. I’m actually already doing so by listening to the audiobook on my commute. It’s read by Kate herself and it’s absolutely wonderful.

If you like the look of this challenge, you can find it here. It also has a very varied and fun Pinterest board here.

Are any of you doing reading challenges this year? What books are you looking forward to reading the most?