2015: A Bookish Year In Review

In a midst of the ‘Best of 2015’ lists popping up left, right, and centre, I’m going to wrap-up my reading year rather than picking out my top 10. (I’m the most indecisive person ever so picking only 10 out of 75 would be a struggle!) I saw this kind of yearly review on Ashleigh’s blog (A Frolic Through Fiction) and I like this format a lot so here we go, with a helping hand from Goodreads, my 2015 reading went a little like this…

gr2015_jan1Utopia – Sir Thomas More (4/5, review)
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (3/5, review)
Northern Lights* – Philip Pullman (4/5, review)
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens (4/5, review)
Richard III – William Shakespeare (3/5, review)
Fangirl* – Rainbow Rowell (4/5, review)
Tamburlaine – Christopher Marlowe (3/5)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince* – JK Rowling (4/5, review)

Read: 8 books | 2967 pages | 3 for fun, 5 for uni
Reviewed 7 out of 8 | Fav: Fangirl

Continue reading

The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

I saw Booktuber Shannon from leaninglights do this tag which was created by Chami and Ely at A Book So Fathomless. It seems like a fun way to take stock of the year so far and reflect on some great books I’ve read. Thankfully most of what I have read this year so far has been brilliant so it makes reflections like these positive – thank goodness – but difficult to narrow down when it comes to favourites. There are much worse problems to have…

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2015.

And with this very first question comes one of the only drawbacks for reading so many wonderful books already this year. For the sake of not being repetitive Ithink what I’ll do is reserve some of what I would like to mention here for future questions, and in doing so I can narrow down my favourites to: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2015.

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon. It might be the only sequel I’ve read (if we’re not counting re-reads), and I was very pleasantly surprised with the direction this story took given its change of setting (reversion of setting technically, I suppose) and with how well it worked as a sequel, especially considering how invested I’d become in the setting/environment of The Bone Season and the quirks of that.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. Booktube has completely hyped this up for me but I must admit the premise still remains intriguing to me – an ancient Rome inspired YA dystopian fantasy book… yes one of that much done genre, but the Rome thing is something I’ve yet to read. Given my headspace currently is completely filled with Shakespeare’s Coriolanus it seems oddly fitting to allow myself a distraction that’s an interpretation of ancient Rome which is precisely what Shakespeare’s Roman plays also offer, admittedly in a very different genre.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

Possibly The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness? I have not read a single book, not even a single word, written by Patrick Ness and yet the premise of this book is at least moderately intriguing – what if you’re not the Chosen One, the one picked to save the world from vampires, werewolves, aliens, whatever, and fulfil your destiny as saviour of all mankind? So it seems to be a parody of the whole Chosen One narrative arc and to comment (hopefully) on the remarkable in the everyday and the mundane. So I’m definitely keeping an eye out for this one and, considering how it seems to take me a couple of months to even realise books have been released, I might get around to this in like December or something.

5. Biggest disappointment.

Nothing has been hugely disappointing for me so I’ve had to be a bit picky with this question to choose something. I’d say A Game of Thrones was possibly a bit disappointing and that isn’t George R.R. Martin’s fault in the slightest, it’s 100% assuredly my own. I watched Season 1 of the TV show and then finally got around to reading this and, yes, it’s nice to have a more sustained narrative from each characters’ perspective but overall I didn’t really feel that this book added anything more to what I already knew, I felt like I was essentially just reading the TV show – which is probably less a disappointment and more of a testament to how well the first book was adapted for television, but even so I suppose that was a minor disappointment?

6. Biggest surprise.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I didn’t expect to hate this book at all, not in the least, since I think it’s well accepted that a Gaiman book is always a delight. What surprised me, however, was that this “children’s book” (yes I would dispute that categorisation to be honest) was honestly one of the best things I’ve read all year. It was so much more than what it purports to be and I found myself sad when I’d finished it because the story was over. Easily sneaked into my favourite books of all time and that did surprise me.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)

V.E. Schwab I think fits this nicely. I’ve recently read A Darker Shade of Magic which I enjoyed immensely and which has persuaded me to pick Vicious back up after I had to abandon it because of university work. A lot of the reason I’ve come to like Victoria, however, is because of her Twitter which shows her amazing capacity for multitasking – I’ve never seen someone with such a workload consistently manage to motivate herself to simultaneously write her novels, edit her novels, promote her books, read others’ books, and complete grad school. Wow, just wow.

8. Newest fictional crush.

Maybe Warden from The Bone Season? I’m such a predictable girl, it’s ridiculous. I find myself simultaneously unsurprised and disappointed in myself for this answer. For reasons why… should we start with the fact he’s not human? Also Gansey from The Raven Boys but, I mean, that’s a given, isn’t it? Private school boy, well-spoken, articulate, witty, searching the world for the ley lines which will lead him to the resting place of the sleeping ancient Welsh king Glendower (aka Owain Glyndŵr, I know my Welsh friend Sarah would kill me for using the Anglicisation)… um, yeah that’s the ideal list of qualities for me – sign me up (apparently).

9. Newest favourite character.

Can I just say all of the characters in A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab? Kell with his fantastic coat, the thief Lila with her pirate aspirations, a prince who is (in Schwab’s words) “equal parts Prince Harry and Jack Harkness”, how could I possibly pick just one of the ADSOM gang? I even liked the villains with all their lovely/terrifying sadistic natures.

10. Book that made you cry.

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. I cried at the titular first essay so… there was no way I wasn’t going to continue to weep or, at the very least, have that lump-in-throat feeling. A lot of what Marina had to say about being in college and the scary unknowable country that is “the real world” and “the future” really hit home in a really simple and honest and real way.

11. Book that made you happy.

Against my better judgement, Soulless by Gail Carriger. It’s full of “British” stereotypes and turns of phrase that would ordinarily make me gag on reflex at how non-English people think English people speak – lots of “oh I say old chap” and “jolly good” etc. – but I mean it’s a book set in steampunk Victorian England populated by werewolves and vampires so I think at some point you have to just let it go and let it take you along for the ride, no matter how ridiculous it might be. And it is – this book is so ridiculous and fangirly and fanfiction-esque but you know what? I don’t care, I bloody enjoyed it.

12. Favourite book to film adaptation you saw this year.

I’ve been a loner this year after all my university friends cruelly decided to move on with their lives and not lurk around Lancaster for another year of study, which has meant very little (to no) cinema trips. So I think the only book adaptation I’ve seen this year was the miniseries of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy and I was very very pleasantly surprised, by both the book and what a good job they did translating it to the miniseries. Things were changed, characters cut, plot lines eradicated, but overall I thought it really captured the tone and point of the book and its diverse cast of characters (the casting was spot on).

13. Favourite review you’ve written this year.

If I ever take the time to post a review on here rather than leaving it on Goodreads, chances are that I’m vaguely pleased with how it turned out. In that vein, I’m pleased with my review of Aristotle and Dante, other vastly different contenders are my reviews of Richard III The Raven Boys, and The Wide Window

14. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year

I’ve only purchased it yesterday and it hasn’t arrived yet but All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr which looks like this. Also I am really fond of the reissued covers of the A Song of Ice and Fire series which look like this, so much so I went and bought the entire set without having even finished the first book.

15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Apart from wanting to make a considerable dent in my TBR of books I physically own, I also want to clear some classics that I’m meant to have read; I’ve been saving the longer “project books” and my Dickens collection for wintery months and after I’ve graduated so I can devote all this looming unemployment to reading and crying about my lack of employability. Fun times ahead!

And that’s the end of the tag, phew. That was a lot more fun than just going through and listing my goals for this year and comparing where I’m at to where I ought to be – it’s also a lot more positive than that would probably be! Anyone else done this tag? Link me if so, I’m curious/nosy as ever. And as always if you haven’t done it but would like to consider yourself tagged by me.

Project Watch More Things

That is not a catchy project title, even if it does what it says on the tin. As far as intriguing and engaging initials go, Project WMT isn’t particularly inspiring either, I really need to take a leaf out of the books of the creators of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. But for now, it will do (story of my life).

Let me explain where the desire for Project WMT (it’s terrible, don’t repeat it any more) comes from. I am the serial re-watcher, re-reader here, yet again, to complain about this fact and state my intentions to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I might have accidentally (not at all) clicked Renew on my subscription to Amazon Student which comes with Amazon Prime Video so… that happened. And now, between Netflix and Prime, I have access to quite a few TV shows that I’ve been meaning to watch. However, although I do love me a marathon, I have recently realised that I flop onto the metaphorical ground, wheezing and begging for water, and never get to the finish line. (Not kidding – I still haven’t finished Firefly for god’s sake!) So something needs to be done about that.

Something also needs to be done to kick my film re-watching habits. Now, that’s not to say I’m going to stop re-watching films because a world in which I am not allowed to obsessively re-watch Avengers Assemble, Thor, Shaun of the Dead, Leap Year, and The Proposal is, frankly, not a world I want to live in. What I mean to say is that I hope to add some recent (and absolutely no so recent) releases to that list and actually watch some of the unwatched DVDs that sit on my ever-groaning bookshelf. My plan is small but manageable I think – I shall watch 1 film a week, a new-to-me film, that I will then review, either soon afterwards, or I will jot down comments in order to include it in a monthly wrap-up which should have, obviously, 4 films to discuss. It should be good.

We’re already on the 8th so a week has passed of March and no film to speak of was watched. I think I will allow myself that deviation since, you know, I only just thought about actually putting this general desire to watch more films into some kind of action plan. I haven’t yet decided how the TV show portion of this will work because it has horrible potential to interfere with my academic life even more than it already does. I’ll get back to you on that one, along with a better project title. (Side note: if you have any ideas for creative names for this ‘project’ then please leave them below!)

Disclaimer: I will undoubtedly fail but hey… the best laid schemes of mice and men…

2015 Bookish Resolutions

Well 2014 has come and gone – where the hell has it gone? seriously, I want a do-over – and though now might be the time for reflection, it is also the time to look onwards and maybe upwards. The cynic in me cannot allow me to be as optimistic and peppy about the dawn of a new year (it’s just time passing, guys, it’s just 23:59 flicking over to 00:00, it’s happened so many times before), I’m still going to whack out some book-related resolutions for 2015. Brought to you by foolhardy optimism and too-much-chocolate-consumed-in-the-past-week, here is my handily numbered 2015 bookish goals:

  1. Stay on top of required reading. Do NOT procrastinate by binge reading things such as the Anna and the French Kiss series and then find yourself unhealthily crying your way through reading some Renaissance play at 11pm the night before class. DO NOT.
  2. Write TBRs that are actually manageable, realistic, and appealing. Try to be mindful about each of these things
  3. Write a review, even just a sentence or two, no matter how incoherent/flaily, for every single book/play/poem I read this year. Bonus points if it’s coherent, bonus points if it’s a video or in a wrap-up post, but at the very least on Goodreads.
  4. Give everything I read some kind of rating, whether that’s in number of stars out of 5, out of 10 (with ridiculous .25 and .75 options when I just can’t settle between 3.5 and 4 out of 5). If possible, do this as soon as possible after reading.
  5. Make blog posts/videos more regularly. And tied into this…
  6. Have more structure to the blog posts/videos. Along with TBRs, monthly wrap-ups, try to organise sections better i.e. in lieu of reading (life, general chatter posts), monthly favourites, bookish discussions etc. etc.
  7. Be more mindful of what I am reading – quality over quantity here because 5 shitty quality YA books is not better than 1 well-written novel, despite what my Goodreads Challenge might think. To structure this goal I’m going to use the likes of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge and this 2015 Reading Challenge.

I have a few more very specific goals essentially centred on finally getting through particular texts which I didn’t finish and you’ll notice a theme with these – they’re all ridiculously long and difficult:

  • Actually read Spenser’s Faerie Queene all the way through instead of just enough to pass a class
  • Revisit Milton’s Paradise Lost which received the same treatment as above in second year
  • Um maybe read Hugo’s Les Misérables – though let’s keep that one quiet because I wrote my dissertation on it and completely read it cover to cover *cough*
  • Finish Anna Karenina – I actually really enjoyed what I did read and it broke my heart a little to move it to my ‘started but didn’t finish’ shelf on Goodreads. Let’s see if I can change that in 2015!
  • Tackle as many Dickens’ novels as is possible. I have the complete set now, all pretty in Vintage editions, I have no excuse.

Like I said, these bookish goals/resolutions/promises-sure-to-be-broken are more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules (I couldn’t resist that reference) but I hope to help structure more thoughtful reading through these guidelines. Most importantly, in 2015, I want to shape my reading practices to include books that I really want to be reading/writing about rather than just trying to keep on top of the mountain of booktube recommended reads which have been stellar reads but shouldn’t completely rule my to-read lists quite as much they do!

What are your ‘resolutions’ for the upcoming year? Do you like to make New Years’ Resolutions in general or do you find them more of a hindrance than a help? Let me know in the comments below!