Happy New Year!

Let me preemptively wish everyone a Happy New Year! We’re heading into a new year, and this leads to a new chapter and a new challenge.

As I have now completed my studies (or hello, TEFL Course!), I’m going to put a little more effort into my reading. I want to be better read, and a better reviewer.

So, I’m setting myself a few challenges, of which you are welcome to join!

The first challenge:

Book Riot posted their annual Read Harder Challenge, I will be attempting this challenge throughout 2019. I’ll try and separate Book Club from Book Challenge, but some crossing’s over may happen.

I’m also setting myself a goal of reading 50 books this year. This may not seem like a lot to some of you avid readers out there, but considering I only read some 21 books this year, this is going to be a challenge for me. I used to read all the time, and I love reading, but I’ve been so snowed under with reading for courses, that reading for pleasure has slipped to the wayside and reading books quickly is not a thing I am currently able to do.

Now that we’ve got the challenges out of the way, let’s see some stats!

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This blog has managed to get 1,032 views from 554 visitors with 499 likes and 47 comments. How awesome is that?

My top blog post was:

My Book Review on Teresa Driscoll’s I Am Watching You!

This review earned 71 views! How exciting!

Hopefully, 2019 will be just as exciting a year as 2018 will be. Though, with 50 books to read, I can already see me madly trying to catch up as the year progresses. Hopefully you’ll all like to stick around and see how it goes!

Happy New Year, everyone!

My Top 17 Reads of the Year

Ironically, I’ve only managed to finish 17 books this year (I’m discounting all books related to my MA which I’ve read this year), and this is how I would place them in terms of favourite. Most of these weren’t published this year, but I hope you enjoy it either way!

17) Red Phoenix by Larry Bond

16) Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

15) I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

14) The Christmas Forest by Rebecca Boxall

13) That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

12) And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness

11) Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

10) The Shining by Stephen King

9) Born Lippy: How To Do Female by Jo Brand

8) The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

7) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

6) Release by Patrick Ness

5) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

4) 1984 by George Orwell

3) House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

2) Becoming by Michelle Obama

1) The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

 

This was potentially the hardest list I’ve done this year, it was so hard to choose and I moved a few of them around a lot! It was especially difficult between 2 and 1, but The Travelling Cat Chronicles was an amazing novel, and it really touched me and a book I still think about today. Becoming is an equally amazing memoir, and I love Michelle Obama. The choice was so hard!

What’s your favourite books that you’ve read this year? Let me know in the comments!

When Do You Decide To Give Up A Book?

This is a hard question for me. I don’t like not finishing a book, but there are occasions when you just have to stop.

This could be for a number of reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason is you just aren’t getting along with the novel you have decided to pick up.

I hate giving up a book, I always carry on thinking ‘I’ll like it soon’, ‘it’ll get better, I just have to find that part’, and sometimes, it’s not even the books fault. I’ve picked it up, thought it sounded really good, the book is written wonderfully and it’s masterful at the tale it’s presenting, but it’s just not working for me.

And that makes me feel guilty.

So, how much of a book do you read before you decide it’s probably not going to ever work for you?

I’m trying to start a 25% rule, and if I’m still not getting along with a book by a quarter of the way through, then I’m probably never going to like it.

Do you have a rule? Or do you power through to the very end?

Let me know what you think!

Your First Memory of Books

My first prominent memory of books and reading comes from my grandmother.

My grandmother was harsh, stern and silent from my memories (she passed away when I was 12), but in her home there was always a locked glass cabinet of books. All of them is various stages of disrepair. I remember always looking at the books, wondering what they were about.

I remember once getting brave enough to ask to read one, and she produced a key seemingly from nowhere, and unlocked it. I wasn’t given a choice, but I was given a book.

I really struggled with it. I wasn’t very old, and the words were foreign and in small writing. I’d never read a book in English before, not on my own. My schooling was all through the medium of Welsh, and thus, all the books I’d ever learnt to read were in Welsh. I’d never encountered an English book on my own before.

Sitting there, I found it really hard, but I remember loving the feel of the pages, turning the pages. But, it had sparked something. I needed to know more.

She never read those books to me, and I struggled to form the sounds of the words in my head as I read them. English words are a lot different to Welsh words, and the letters sound different.

I haven’t seen those books in a long time, and I don’t even remember what they were called. I remember the bright red and yellow covers, I remember the sellotape holding some of them together. But, they were my grandmother’s prized books, and I remember being so excited to get to finally read them.

There are two people in my life who I can thank for my love of literature, and my desire to study literature. The first would be my grandmother, for allowing me to read those books, or at least attempt, and then for her unwavering loyalty to my growing hunger for the page. I remember she used to collect stamps from the paper and get books from stamps just for me.

The second would be my English teacher in comprehensive school. Her passion and enthusiasm for the written word and the joys fo understanding the words presented in front of you inspired me to try and understand literature in the same way.

I have a lot to be grateful for, and I owe these two people a lot for who I am today.

What’s your first memory of books? Let me know!

Banned Books Week!

The 23rd to the 29th of October is Banned Books Week!

This is an important week of the year for literature, as it’s a week that celebrates books that have been challenged, either for their authors or their content.

Banned Books Week is an initiative started by the American Library Association and Amnesty International, and highlights the books challenged or removed from libraries and school libraries. Some of them are pretty absurd. Books challenged for LGBT characters, books banned for their drug use, magic, etc.

Is there a book on the list below that you’ve read and loved, but is challenged?

Take a look here and let me know!

Reading Teen Fiction

Over the years, I’ve read quite a lot of teen fiction, or young adult fiction and immensely enjoyed it. There are so many gems in the genre, and some amazing writers.

Whilst studying English literature at undergraduate level, I discovered that there was some dissent to even considering teen fiction as literature.

There seems to be a stigma around reading teen fiction, about perhaps the way it is not considered literary enough for it be anything noteworthy. I have personally never understood this concept.

Literary fiction implies that the novel that is published under this name is somehow superior. The Oxford Dictionary describes literary as “Concerning the writing, study, or content of literature, especially of the kind valued for quality of form.” Quality of form implies that it is a well-written piece, or it is valued for it’s form, and it’s use of language, perhaps over the plot of the writing. This could also be seen as marking ‘literary fiction’ as a superior writing genre, as it is ‘quality of form’. It could could also imply that the person writing in this genre is somehow better than someone working in teen fiction, or even children’s fiction.

I’m curious as to why that is. Is there a certain aspect of teen fiction that doesn’t meet a certain criteria? Is there an element of classism that makes it not literary?

Classism wouldn’t be hard to rule out, if it is viewed as not literary, then that implies a substandard. That only ‘real’ readers will reader literary works, and that the ease of access of teen fiction or the aim at younger reading implies that there can not be a literary concept to teen fiction. The ease of access implies that anyone can read it, whereas if it were considered literary, it could imply that it is inaccessible to ‘normal’ readers.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Your Top 5 Book Recommendations!

We all have our favourite books, but what are your top 5 reading?

What are the top five books you can think of that you always go back to reading?

Mine would be:

  1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (technically it’s one book!)
  2. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
  3. More Than This by Patrick Ness
  4. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
  5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

All five of these books have influenced me in quite a large way, either growing up or as a person. I always struggle to think of my top five favourite books as they change quite frequently. For example, if you’d asked me maybe ten years ago, Harry Potter would have been on that list, too. And whilst Harry Potter was still an influence part of my reading, it’s not in my top five anymore. Maybe in ten years, my top 5 will have changed again.

What are your top 5 favourite books? Let me know in the comments!