2018 Reading Resolutions

I’ve decided to cut back on my resolutions quite a bit this year, both because I’m not reading at the pace I have been in past years (my Goodreads goal is also a little lower than in 2017), and to allow myself more freedom to just read what I feel like reading; the end of last year was something of a frenzy of books that would fulfil challenge requirements, and consequently I ended up having to put off several books that I was really eager to read (like The Book of Dust, which has been taunting me from my bookshelf since I bought it the day after it was released!)… I definitely don’t want to do that again. 😓

This year’s challenges will be:

  • Take part in the Library Scavenger Hunt every month – This hasn’t changed at all from last year, though I have decided that I’m not going to be too upset if I miss a month or two…
  • Read a book set on every continent – This is an adaptation of my “books that showcase different cultures” challenge, which has been serving its purpose, but I do find that I end up just reading a lot of books set in one or two cultures, so it doesn’t actually diversify my reading all that much (for instance, I read quite a lot of books that are set in Japan). The seven continents are Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Oceania & Antarctica, and I already have a few ideas for what I could read for a couple of these. 👍
  • Read five books that were given to me – This is almost the same as in previous years, but I’ve dropped the “or lent” part of the challenge in addition to the “or recommended” part that I left out last year. I was given quite a few books this Christmas, so even if nobody else gives me a single book this year, I have enough exciting books to fuel me through this challenge. 🎄
  • Finish or catch up on five series – The only change I’ve made to this challenge is that the series don’t have to be ones that I started before the beginning of the year; while this was a helpful challenge, I found that it discouraged me from finishing newly discovered series more than it encouraged me to finish off older ones.
  • Read three classics or modern classics – No change from last year; three seems to be the perfect number for this challenge.
  • Read two non-fiction books – I’ve increased the number for this challenge by one, as last year I fulfilled it much more easily than I was anticipating, and then went on to read a couple more non-fiction books, as well!
  • Read two DNF books – In contrast, I’ve decreased the amount here, simply because I don’t have all that many DNF books left on my shelves (except for anthologies, which I don’t tend to count).

If you’ve been following my resolutions for the last couple of years, you may notice that most of these are quite familiar, but I’m happy with the changes that I’ve made, & I think they strike a nice balance between challenge, flexibility and achievability.

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2017 in Review

Last year (and it’ll be strange for a while yet to be using that phrase to refer to 2017) ended up being a pretty great reading year for me, despite several not-quite-slumps, and a few very time-consuming video game obsessions. 😅 I’m still not reading at the pace that I was when I was in China (just before I decided to start this blog), but considering that I now have a considerably more active social life, and a job with far less downtime, I’m happy with both the quantity and the quality of the books that I read. I managed to complete my Goodreads Challenge, as well as all of my Reading Resolutions, which makes a huge change from 2016, where I only managed two out of ten. 😰 The My Year in Books page on Goodreads also looks as cool as ever, but I especially like that they’ve added reviews into the layout this time.

Of course, I’ve picked out a few favourites, which I’d like to say a little about (in order of reading, not preference), starting with The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke, which was not at all what I was expecting it to be, but completely blew me away. It’s a story about a woman and the robot who helped to raise her, and all the ways that their relationship shifts and changes as they grow older. I only initially gave this four stars, but I took the fact that I’m still thinking about it, and remember it so favourably as a sign that I ought to bump it up to a five-star rating.

The next book was definitely the best book I read in 2017: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie! This book not only defied my expectations, but completely blew them out of the water. It tells the story of a soldier called Breq who used to be part of the consciousness of a sentient starship, and is now on a mission to avenge the destruction of herself (kind of). It’s very strange conceptually, but I found the characters, the plot, and the intergalactic society that Leckie created completely enchanting, and I can’t wait to finish the series (after which I will be deciding whether this book specifically, or the series as a whole, will make it onto my all-time favourites list)!

And third is Radio Silence by Alice Oseman, which I finished reading on Boxing Day evening, so it’s a very recent addition to the list. It’s a British contemporary novel about a girl who’s always been super-focused on her academic performance, but secretly loves a strange podcast called Universe City, whose creator is a complete mystery – until one day an acquaintance of hers drunkenly reveals himself to be the mysterious “Radio Silence”. Plot-wise, this book was probably quite weak, but I loved it for its characters, who I identified with very strongly, as well as its homage to fan-culture (of the podcasts and fan-art variety), which read very much like a love letter. 💕

Lastly, here’s a round-up of my resolutions, which (as I previously mentioned) went  really well:

1) Take part in the Library Scavenger Hunt every month:

2) Read 1 non-fiction book:

  • Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks [review linked above]

3) Read 10 adult/literary novels:

4) Read 3 classics or modern classics:

  • Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen [review linked above]
  • Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne [review linked above]
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen [review linked above]

5) Read 5 books that showcase cultures different to my own:

6) Read 5 comics, manga or graphic novels (each series can only count once):

7) Read 10 short stories (not including spin-off novellas):

  • Nora’s Song by Cecelia Holland (from the Dangerous Women anthology)
  • Odd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
  • The Hands That Are Not There by Melinda Snodgrass (DW)
  • Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughan (DW)
  • Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale (DW)
  • Neighbors by Megan Lindholm (DW)
  • I Know How to Pick ‘Em by Lawrence Block (DW)
  • Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson (DW)
  • A Queen in Exile by Sharon Kay Penman (DW)
  • Midnights by Rainbow Rowell (from the My True Love Gave to Me anthology)

8) Read 5 books that were given or lent to me:

  • Odd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
  • The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman [review]
  • Wild Lily by K.M. Peyton [review]
  • The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke [review linked above]
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [review linked above]

9) Finish reading 3 DNF books:

  • Now I Rise by Kiersten White
  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld [review linked above]
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen [review linked above]

10) Finish or catch up on 5 series that I started before the beginning of the year:

Teaser Tuesday #11

THE RULES:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

At the moment I’m reading Homecoming by Kass Morgan, the third book in the 100 series (though if I’d decided to write this post half an hour earlier earlier, then I’d be talking about a different book altogether. 😋), which is set in the aftermath of the nuclear apocalypse, where humanity survived by going into space, but are now forced to return to Earth several generations before they’d planned to, because their space station is running dangerously low on air. The books follow a group of teenage prisoners who are the first to be sent down to Earth, to see if it’s survivable, and documents the trials of life on an irradiated planet. The premise is great, the execution is maybe not so great, but I’ve been finding these books buckets of fun regardless… 😁

Teaser #1:

“Already luring children into the woods like a real creepy hermit, are we? That didn’t take long.”

Teaser #2:

He knew that strict order was absolutely necessary on the ship, but it’d be hard for the guards to abandon their mantra of shoot first, ask questions later.

[Teaser Tuesday was created by MizB over at A Daily Rhythm.]

Teaser Tuesday #10

THE RULES:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week month more-than-a-month I’ve been reading Now I Rise by Kiersten White, the second book in an amazing series that re-imagines the life of Vlad the Impaler, in a world where he is born a woman. I really loved the first book, and so far this sequel is living up to my admittedly high expectations – which is making me very happy indeed. 💕

Teaser #1:

She was as likely to kill anyone who talked to her as she was to make a friend.
No. She was 
far more likely to kill someone than to make a friend.

Teaser #2:

The fog changed the character of the city, obscuring landmarks, leeching the already faded colors. With no church steeples visible, bells rang out as though from the world of spirits, their metallic warnings hanging lonely in the air.

[Teaser Tuesday was created by MizB over at A Daily Rhythm.]

T5W: Second = Best

Second books get a lot of criticism. If a series started out strong, then they have a lot to live up to, and sometimes they can seem like just a whole book’s worth of filler before a (hopefully) epic final novel… but I actually tend to really like them; with quite a few of my favourite series, I end up liking the second book best. 😊 So, naturally, I was thrilled to discover that this week’s Top 5 Wednesday theme was second books… Here’s my (heavily abridged) list:

5) A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas

This may be a bit of a cheat, since I haven’t finished the series yet, and so can’t know for sure whether A Court of Mist & Fury will be my favourite, but I couldn’t help including it here, simply because it was such a dramatic improvement over the first book… I liked A Court of Thorns & Roses, but the more I thought about it after I finished it, the more underwhelmed I felt; I was somewhat reluctant to even pick the sequel up, despite all the amazing things I’d been hearing about it… but, wow, was this book a huge step up. If you’re not sure about this series after book one, then rest assured that it’s worth it (so far🤞).

4) Lirael by Garth Nix

Nix’s Old Kingdom series is fantastic as a whole, but as much as I loved Sabriel and Touchstone in the first book, Lirael’s character arc in this book has always stuck with me. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that the new storyline that Lirael began was fantastic, and she had a wonderful set of sidekicks in Sam, Nick, and the Disreputable Dog. 😋

3) Half Wild by Sally Green

Not a huge amount happens in Half Wild compared to the other two books in the trilogy, so this may be something of an odd choice, but what I really love about this book is how, with the action slowed down, there was so much character and relationship development. In particular, there was some really amazing exploration of Nathan’s relationship with his estranged father Marcus, as well as his two potential love interests, Gabriel and Annalise…

2) Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire is the second book in the Graceling Realm trilogy, and seems to be a lot of people’s least favourite entry… It’s certainly very different from the other two books – it’s even set in a different world! Kind of. But although I found the transition between books quite jarring (I wasn’t even expecting the change in protagonists, and that’s the least of the changes from Graceling), I very quickly became attached to the new characters, their world, and I loved how much this book effected the other two, despite their apparent disconnect… 💕

1) The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials is such an incredible series, and deserves all the praise it’s ever received and more; it’s exciting, thought-provoking, heart-breaking, beautifully written… Naturally, I love all three books in the trilogy, and the spin-off novellas, and I’m eagerly awaiting The Book of Dust. But Will’s introduction, and how our own world was pulled into this story with him, is what makes me love The Subtle Knife so much. (It also gave me what was probably my first ever OTP. Lyra & Will forever. 😭)

And an honourable mention for Street Magic by Tamora Pierce, which is one of my favourite books of all time, and also the second book in The Circle Opens quartet… which is itself a follow-up to the Circle of Magic series. I didn’t include it on the main list mostly because I tend to think of it as being a sixth book rather than a second, but this is also a series that people should definitely read! 🙏

(Also, in no particular order: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta, The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick,  Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson… and probably about a hundred more. But I’ll stop here, for the sake of all our sanity.)

[Top 5 Wednesday is run by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. To find out more or join in, check out the Goodreads group.]

Summer Holidays ~🎶

This Friday my family and I will be heading off on our annual trip to Skye. I’m looking forward to escaping from the heat and humidity of Cambridge for a while, and (I confess) to having a break from work – but most of all, I’m excited for peace and quiet, and lots and lots of time to read books. ☺️ For the sake of not taking up too much car space, I won’t be taking more than a couple of physical books, but with them and my kindle, I hope that I’ll have enough to keep me going… Here’s what I’m currently planning on reading:

1) Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. I’ve been reading this along with the Harry Potter & the Sacred Text podcast, but I still have a lot of catching up to do, and long car trips are perfect for at least the listening part of the process, so I’ll definitely be bringing this book along. 😊

2) Now I Rise by Kiersten White. The second book in The Conquerors Saga (which started with And I Darken), which is going to be released on Thursday. Obviously, I haven’t got a copy of this book at the moment, but I do have a credit saved up at the moment from my book-buying ban (/restriction), and I’m planning on using it for this book, which I’m super-excited to pick up as soon as I can. Barring unexpected circumstances, I’ll head into town on Thursday to purchase a copy…

3) There really are a lot of Evil Spirits! by Fuyumi Ono. The second book in the Akuryou series, which hasn’t officially been released in English, though fan-translations are available online. Recently, I’ve been re-reading/re-watching/finally reading the sequel to to Ghost Hunt manga and anime, and since I’m enjoying it so much, I thought I’d also pick up some of the novels it was based on… I read the first one quite a while back (though I may decide to re-read it; they’re only short, after all), so I intend to start again from volume two this time.

As for the rest, I’m still undecided, but there are a few books on my kindle at the moment that I might give a go… They include: Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, or perhaps the second and third books in Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy (which I started during the Anti-Bullying Readathon in 2015 and loved)… Or I might cave in and finally buy A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir; it will likely depend a lot on my mood. 🤔 However, as has become the usual when I post one of these TBRsI will be trying to do a proper review of everything I read on my trip, so whatever I decide to read, expect to be hearing about it! 😆

T5W: Books for a Rainy Summer

To be honest, summer hasn’t really shown its face where I live; we had a truly beautiful Sunday, followed by a couple of days of gloomy rainclouds (and as I write, raindrops are attempting to batter their way through my windows). 🌧 Spring does seem to be finally-hopefully-maybe asserting its dominance over winter, but I’m not going to hold my breath for true summer weather for at least a couple more months… So, since this week’s theme – summer reads – is wholly inappropriate, I thought I’d tweak it a little bit, and instead I’ll be sharing with you some of my favourite books for a wet summer spent indoors! 😉

Sunny days always make me want to read light, fluffy contemporaries. Rainy days lend themselves to something a little bit heavier; sad or mysterious or thought-provoking or lonely, or maybe even a little spooky (but not too much!)… Though if you asked me why, I doubt I’d be able to answer. 😅

5) The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

A story about a young girl called Maria Merryweather, who, upon moving to the country to live with her reclusive uncle, discovers that her family is cursed, and it’s up to her to find a way to break it. This is a really magical book, and one that I still love even though I’m considerably older than its target audience. Naturally, I’d especially recommend it for people who love horses. 😊

4) Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Not long after Vera falls out with her best friend – and secret crush – Charlie, he dies in damning circumstances, and Vera is left to decide how far she’s willing to go in order to clear his name… and if she even wants to. Dark, mysterious, heart-wrenching, and gripping from start to finish.

3) The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

The eerie tale of a man who one evening saves the life of a crane that crash-lands in his garden, and shortly afterwards meets a young woman called Kumiko who seems to have some connection to the crane. And interwoven with this is a wonderful folk-tale-esque story about a crane and a volcano (which I may or may not have liked even more than the main storyline)… Beautifully written, and full of wonderful characters; Patrick Ness is an incredible author, and it’s just as evident in The Crane Wife as in some of his better-known works.

2) Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

A dark, slow-building story about a young man and his first love, who suffered deeply from depression. This book is much heavier than the others on this list (even Please Ignore Vera Dietz!), and is very emotionally draining, too, but it’s definitely worth the energy it takes to get through it. Incredibly thought-provoking, and brilliantly atmospheric.

1) The Kotenbu series by Honobu Yonezawa

Also known as the Classics Club series or the Hyouka series, these books tell the story of a high-schooler who’s forced by his sister to join his school’s dying Classics Club. It’s supposed to be a club where students meet in order to read and discuss classical literature, but instead the small club becomes all about solving mysterious happenings around the school and town, and willingly or not, Houtarou – our main character, who prefers to live his life in ‘energy-saving mode” – is dragged into the chaos. Each book offers up a different main case, and they vary in tone and complexity, but are always a great deal of fun. I really love these characters, too, which probably helps. 😆

These books have no official English translation at the moment, but if this series sounds like something you’d like, then fan-translations are available on Baka-Tsuki. Or you could check out the also-fantastic anime (which is called Hyouka). Or  do both! 😉