Take a reading challenge in 2017!

I can’t resist a good challenge, and a reading challenge is the best kind! Not only does it make you accountable to yourself to try and pick up your reading game, it can broaden your reading horizons in ways you wouldn’t have otherwise known about. Here are a few ideas for reading challenges you could take up in 2017 if you were looking to add more bookish fun into your reading life!

 

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  • Chapter Break is hosting the 2017 Shelf Love Challenge, I participated in this last year as I found I had been ignoring the books on my own shelves in favour of library books. The goal is to read the books that you own first and foremost, ideal if you, like me, own lots of books that you haven’t yet read. I found it took me a good six months to get the hang of not requesting everything under the sun from the library, but once I started sticking to my library ban it was quite easy to look to my own shelves first, it was a matter of just doing it. I’m going to ramp up my commitment this year to read 21-30 books from my own shelves, which according to the Chapter Break challenge rules is the “give your shelves a warm friendly hug” level!

 

  • The 2017 PopSugar Reading Challenge is a handy, fun little list for expanding your repertoire, and very doable. There are 40 prompts for you to attempt, most of which are quite easy, and an additional 12 prompts for those looking for a bit more. You can download a printable version of the challenge if you like to manually tick things off as you go, and there’s even a Goodreads group and an Instagram hashtag to keep you enthused all year.

 

  • The “Challenge Factory” GoodReads discussion thread has LOADS of suggestions from users, ranging from the easy to the advanced, from mini and weekly challenges to year-long ones. Lots of fun, you’re bound to find something that you like. The TCF Hangman 2017 thread looks like a fun game, and I’m definitely going to try the Give Me 5 thread for those times when I can’t pick what I want to read next.

 

  • I’m also going to try to Book Riot Read Harder Challenge this year – this one has a focus on diversity and will really push you to seek books that our outside of your norm. Book Riot offer plenty of backup throughout the year for completing this challenge, including an active Goodreads group, regular videos on the Book Riot booktube channel, and Read Harder book group meetups if you’re lucky enough to live in one of the cities that hosts them in the US, Canada or Scotland.

 

So, do any of these challenges take your fancy? What are your reading goals for 2017?

 

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2016 wrap-up – our top books and reading goals

Aaaaaand that’s a wrap on 2016! Despite all the crapness of this year, reading was one thing that went reasonably well for us. For one thing, both of us met our Goodreads Reading Challenge targets…..

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And really, what could be a better indicator of a successful year, I ask you?

Here’s a rundown of our year in reading:

 

Janelle says…

My top 5 books of the year

Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake

This was everything I want from a fantasy novel, and there is more to come from this series, which leaves me giddy with gleeful anticipation.

The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey

Not your average zombie novel, this had a mix of genre tones, touching on science fiction, thriller, and literary. Very satisfying.

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

Speaking of satisfying, this was the bookish equivalent of slipping on your comfiest trackpants, and sinking into your couch with a tub of ice cream, a spoon, and Netflix. Devilish drama.

Fear Is The Rider – Kenneth Cook

Whenever I think back to this book, my pulse quickens a notch. Clear your schedule for a few hours before cracking this one open, you won’t to get off this ride until the end.

Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed

I think this will forever be a book I go back to again and again in different phases of my life, and one I recommend and gift to others repeatedly. It should be on everyone’s shelves, liquid gold for the soul.

 

My reading goals

I originally set my Goodreads reading challenge goal at 36 books for the year, but I crept up close to it in the second half of the year so I extended it out to 40 books. And I still managed to beat that too! This is the most I’ve ever read in one year ever, so I’m super happy! Although my final number should be 47, not 46. I read Tiny Beautiful Things again in 2016, but Goodreads only lets you assign one completion date to each book, so it’s stuck on the original date I first finished it in 2015.

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I was also taking part in the Shelf Love Challenge this year, which was basically a pledge to read your own books, in an effort to get through more of the many unread books sitting on my own shelves. My goal was to have read between 11-20 of my own books this year. I was pretty rubbish at this challenge in the first half of the year, being unable to resist the temptation of library books. But I picked up my game in the second half, with a final total of 15 books read from my own shelves. I’m not counting ARCs (advanced reader copies) or audiobooks in this final tally, because both of those types of books are ones that expire after a certain period of time. And my focus for this challenge was the physical books on my shelves. So I achieved this goal, but definitely room for improvement next year!

 

Mel says…

My top 5 books of the year

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series – Ransom Riggs 

This book series was my favourite YA of the year and the entire series makes my top 5, as each book was brilliant and unique. I couldn’t devour all 3 books fast enough, so now I just need to prepare myself for the movies. They better not ruin the bookish magic….

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

I was a little late to the party on this one, but it didn’t disappoint. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and devoured multiple packets of Tim Tams while I greased up the pages of my book, with swift page turning goodness.

Wildflower – Drew Barrymore 

This book was my second favourite read of the year. What’s not to love about Drew, really?! After reading Wildflower, all I wanted to do was make daisy chains and sit in the sun. She is just such a beautiful and pure person. Love her even more, now!

Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty

I couldn’t decide between TMG or Moriarty’s other standout, Big Little Lies. But seeings as Janelle included BLL in her top 5, I’ll go with TMG. Another great guilty pleasure, full of suspense, drama and a few LOL’s. This is a great read for any fan of Moriarty, who enjoys her style of writing.

Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed

By far my number one read of 2016. This book has CHANGED MY LIFE! I gifted copies of TBT to some close girlfriends, because I loved it so so much. This book is perfect for anyone who has ever said ‘WTF?’ about ANYTHING, so basically, this book is for everyone.

 

My reading goals

I initially set my Goodreads reading challenge at 15 books, as I was due to have my first baby in March and assumed that I would struggle to read much at all. But somehow I found a way and soon bypassed my initial goal somewhere in the middle of the year, so reset my goal to 23, which I achieved with 2 weeks of the year still remaining. Like Janelle, this is the most books I have ever read in a single year, so next year I hope to push myself even more and continue to explore differing genres.

 

How was your reading in 2016? Did you have any goals that you accomplished? What were your favourite reads of the year?

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Ten books I wouldn’t mind Santa leaving under my tree

I’m joining in with The Broke and the Bookish for the first time for Top Ten Tuesday, where a new Top Ten List theme is posted every week. I particularly liked this week’s theme – Ten books I wouldn’t mind Santa leaving under my tree. Very timely for those of you who may not have bought me my Christmas presents yet. You’re welcome.

1. Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf

I saw a re-run of the ABC’s Book Club recently in which they talked about this book, and all of the guests raved about it. I think one of them even claimed it was their new favourite book ever? An elderly man and elderly woman who live next door to each other start to lie in bed together at nights, sharing their thoughts and secrets. I can’t decide whether it sounds sweet, sad, or like a shitstorm waiting to happen.

2. The Sixth Extinction – Elizabeth Kolbert

I’ve got a bit of a non-fiction craving at the moment (and yet I’m currently reading fiction?), so this and the other non-fiction picks in this list are the ones I really can’t wait to get to. This one is about the so-called Sixth Extinction that will follow the previous five in the Earth’s natural history, why it is happening, and what we can or can’t do about it. Terrifying. And awesome.

3. Pandemic – Sonia Shah

Another non-fiction which is bound to scare the pants off me. This one looks at how contagious diseases have formed into deadly pandemics in the past, and the evidence that predicts another major pandemic is on its way. Hold me. Actually no, don’t touch me.

4. The Witches: Salem 1692 – Stacy Schiff

The Salem Witch Trials, through a holistic view of the social and cultural context of the time. Sounds good to me.

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5. The Emperor of all Maladies – Siddhartha Mukharjee

The subtitle is “A Biography of Cancer” – from its first appearances to the modern day race to find a cure. I’ve heard nothing but good things.

6. The Wolf Road – Beth Lewis

A young girl is brought up in the woods by a gruff man named Trapper. She sees him on a Wanted poster in town, and then understandably runs away, with the police hot on her heels.

7. The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell

When Ann from the Books on the Nightstand podcast said this was probably her favourite book, I just knew I would need to read it. Humans discover extra-terrestrial life, and a religious sect sends a secret mission out into space to make contact.

8. Vengeance Road – Erin Bowman

This just sounds like a delicious Western, perfect for summer. The description makes me think of Red Dead Redemption (my favourite video game ever).

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9. The Interestings – Meg Wolitzer

This sounds like one of those really deep novels where you follow a bunch of characters through the majority of their lives, and you just become immersed in them and their struggles and self-discovery.

10. Daring Greatly – Brene Brown

Given how much I adored both Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, I think this would be right in my wheelhouse of books that inspire me, make me feel worthy and fill me with courage.

 

So, if you’re reading this Santa, all or any combination of the above would make me a very happy lady this Christmas!

Have you read any of the books listed above? What books would you like to receive for Christmas this year?

 

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Outrageous – Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy

by Jenny Lawson

 

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Published 2015

Genres: Non-fiction / Memoir / Humour

 

“Okay. This magazine says that you can tell what you should do with your life if you just take away all thoughts of risks. So what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

“I’d be a Pegasus.”

“That’s not really how this works.”

“I’d be a brown Pegasus though, because if you were a white Pegasus you’d be hounded by Lisa Frank fans and nine-year-olds. And black Pegasuses are just as bad because they’re all badass and heavy metal bands would probably want to kidnap them. But no one wants a shabby brown Pegasus. I could just flap around the neighbourhood and no one would really care. And maybe I’d wish for back herpes so that people wouldn’t hassle me for rides.”

Victor looked back at his magazine. “I’m not going to talk to you if you’re not taking this seriously.”

“I am taking this seriously,” I said. “I’d be a rumpled, brown Pegasus with back herpes if I knew I couldn’t fail.”

“That’s not how it works,” Victor said. “It’s supposed to teach you what you really want in life.”

“That is what I want.”

“PICK SOMETHING REAL.”

Jenny Lawson, a.k.a. The Bloggess, recounts stories from her life that shine a light on the mental health issues she lives with. And in no way are they dark and miserable. She relates her stories with humour, humility, and honesty. Never thought you’d laugh at tales of someone else’s mental health problems? Think again. Somehow, in Furiously Happy, The Bloggess makes it ok to laugh.

 

Janelle says…

It’s been a long time since I laughed so hard that I cried. It’s also been a long time since I had to smother my face while reading at 3am so as not to wake up my family with my giggling. Both of those things happened while I was reading Furiously Happy.

Entering Jenny Lawson’s world was like entering another dimension while on a sugar high and surrounded by cuddly, jumpy puppies who are all holding balloons. I know, it makes no sense, but it sounds damn fun doesn’t it?!

In one way, it seems a bit off to be recommending that you go read this book because you will laugh yourself silly at this recounting of someone’s mental illness. But Jenny Lawson wants you to laugh. That’s at the core of her Furiously Happy movement. To not let her mental issues be an automatic pass into a melancholy state. She is determined to be not only happy, but FURIOUSLY happy. Just like her raccoon friend, Rory. Look at his delightful little face on the cover there. Does he not make you want to join in with whatever party is going on in his head?!

Speaking of Rory, the story she tells about purchasing him and then using him to pull pranks on her long-suffering husband is so funny that I’m laughing right now just thinking about it. As is the story about her going to an overnight sleep clinic to find out if she has sleep apnoea, which was so fantastic I read it twice. In fact, I’m having so much fun reminiscing in my head about this book, that it’s making me want to re-read it immediately!

I can’t do this book justice by speaking any more about it, it would be like doing a poor job of retelling an awesome joke. That “you had to be there” factor. But I’m telling you, you absolutely MUST go there. Please. And then come back here and tell me about it so we can laugh together.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Raw – Like a Queen by Constance Hall

Like a Queen by Constance Hall

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Published 2016

Genres: Non Fiction/Biographical

“Every time you are expressing kindness, handing over some of your wage to a charity, giving another Queen a compliment, recognising a lonely Queen and taking the time to get to know her, offering to babysit for that single mum at school who’s doing it all on her own, sacrificing your coffee money for that homeless guy who waits at the train station every morning, choose to understand instead of judge.

You are changing the world. Every time that you are connecting yourself to someone else, you are changing the world.

Queens are the change the world needs.

This, Queens,

Is just the beginning.”

Australian “Mummy” blogger, Constance Hall’s, first book. A must read for all ‘Queens’.


Mel says…

Before I read Like a Queen, I had only read exerpts of Con’s writing on Facebook and my only memory of her was from a series of Australian Big Brother, many many years ago. So let’s just say that my opinion of her was fairly iffy, at best. But as my girlfriends and fellow Mum’s started raving about this book, I just had to give it a read.

I’ll start with the negatives first; for one, Con is up front with her lack of grammar and punctuation in her blog but I must admit, publishing a book should come with an editor, right? So I don’t think it is too much to ask for someone to have proofread and corrected the use of the words ‘woman’ and women’ in their correct context. It is minor, but something that ALWAYS irritates me. Secondly, I did get a tad irritated with how much Con used the word ‘Queen’ throughout. I know, I know, the book is titled Like a QUEEN for crying out loud, but to use it up to 5-6 times in one paragraph just irked me.
By the last 50 or so pages, I was kind of over the whole book, but I do appreciate the messages that were coming across.

Ok, I have gotten the negatives off my chest, so on to the positives. This book literally had me LOL’ing many times, once in a busy cafe with other patrons staring awkwardly at me. Con tells it like it is and when it comes to early motherhood, it was pretty bloody accurate. As a new mother myself, a lot of the stories that were told resonated with me, as they were so fresh in my memory from my own personal experiences.

From poop to sex and everything in between, this book made me cringe, laugh and hold back tears. I did enjoy reading about Constance’s life in general however, as I was not an avid fan of hers before reading her book, I wasn’t all that interested in those chapters. The chapters that were in relation to mothering and motherhood are what kept me intrigued, but I did struggle to finish it.

Overall, this is a book for women but in particular, Mum’s. New Mum’s, old Mum’s, Grandmothers and step-mothers. I think we can all relate to a lot of the stories and learn from the generous heart that belongs to the original “Queeny’ herself, Constance.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy read – Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

October 2016 – Janelle’s choice

Tiny Beautiful Things

by Cheryl Strayed

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Published 2012

Genres: Non-fiction / Self-help

“…understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.”

This is a collection of letters that were submitted to the online advice column Dear Sugar on the website The Rumpus, and the responses from “Sugar”, a.k.a. Cheryl Strayed. At the time the letters were written, the identity of “Sugar” was unknown.

Janelle says…

Straight up, let me say that this is the second time I’ve read this book, and I knew before I was even halfway through it the first time that it would be the newest addition to my shelf of favourite books.

It’s hard to pigeon-hole this book into a category, although “self-help” would be the closest. But the thing about self-help is that usually you go in with a topic in mind that you want guidance or insight on. Tiny Beautiful Things is not like that. The letters within Tiny Beautiful Things are so varied, they range from relationship troubles, to life-goal worries, to dealing with grief and loss, to self-acceptance, and everything in between. They are at times shocking, upsetting, and maddening.

It’s not the letters themselves though, but Cheryl Strayed’s responses, that are the magic in this book. They are so thoughtful and poetic and honest and profound, that somehow, no matter whether the problems raised in the letters resonate with you or not…..she speaks to you. She could be addressing some poor soul who is worried about the ickiness of their secret sexual fantasies, and you could find a message in her words that makes you think “yes, this totally applies to the work problem that I’m having right now!” It’s a combination of her life experience (and she’s had her share of experiences), her ability to stick with reason and truth, and her beautiful way with words, that provides insight like no one else can give.

This book makes me feel inspired, confident, and ready to take risks and win at life. It’s like a kick up the arse, a warm hug, a slap in the face and a big belly laugh, all delivered at the same time. Truly incredible. No matter where you’re at in life, or what ails you, you WILL get something out of this book. The back cover blurb sums it up best – “…this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.”

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Mel says…

Let me start by saying, I didn’t like this book…I LOVED THIS BOOK! When Janelle first suggested we read this as a buddy read, I was sceptical. I had never read a book that was written as a collection of letters and responses from an advice column dubbed, ‘Dear Sugar’. But I love reading new things, so I gave it a go and I am not exaggerating when I say, it changed my life!

How did a book change my life, you ask? Let’s just say that if Cheryl Strayed started her own religion, I would join up. She is THAT amazing. I loved the way she put these anonymous debacles into perspective. Some of the questions asked were real head scratches, others were as simple as ‘WTF?’ (seriously), but the way ‘Dear Sugar’ responds to each and every one of these questions is amazing. She relates the issues back to her own life experiences and is able to break down the letters in a way that made me hug this book, several times over.

There was one response from ‘Dear Sugar’ that was in relation to becoming; how you don’t know what something will turn out to be until you’ve lived it. This entry was one of the ones that stood out to me the most and spoke to me, so much so that I got my husband to read this chapter as well. In a nutshell, Dear Sugar’s response is in relation to losing her Mother and how a simple act of kindness from her Mother, ensured that Dear Sugar’s future daughter would have a gift from her late-Grandmother to cherish forever. It seems like a simple and nice story, but for whatever reason, this gave me goosebumps and made me realise that what seem like simple acts to us in the present, could cause massive waves in the future.

If you have ever asked yourself ‘WTF?’ in relation to love, friendship, family, work or life in general and let’s face it, we all have, then you need to read this book. This book will make you view obstacles in a whole new light and cast perspective on how to step back from issues and “tackle” them head on, even if it hurts or is scary. It’s ok to be bitter at times, but maybe all you need is a little ‘Dear Sugar’ to sweeten up whatever is causing the bitterness!

 Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Resonating – Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Leave Me

by Gayle Forman

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Published 2016

Genres: Fiction

 

“What is the matter with you?”

“What’s the matter? I’m here alone all day with my mother and the kids and I still feel like shit.” She paused, waiting for Jason to respond but he didn’t say anything. “You’re never here. I can’t tell if you’re trying to avoid home, or if you think that a week in the hospital, a week of recovery, was enough luxury for old Maribeth.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You promised me a bubble,” she said, her voice cracking.

“I’m trying, Maribeth. But keeping you in the bubble and keeping the house running and keeping on top of my job is no easy feat.”

“Welcome to every fucking day of my life.”

 

Maribeth is like so many other mums – forever chasing a never-ending to-do list, always putting everyone else first, and rarely feeling appreciated. No wonder she didn’t even notice that she was having a heart attack.

At home on leave from work and trying to recover, Maribeth is finding that even now, life must go on and there’s no rest to be found. Why does it seem that only mothers can never catch a break? Even after having a heart attack, her family can’t cut her some slack. What if she had died? How would they ever cope if she wasn’t around?

So, she decides to let them find out…..

 

Janelle says…

This is one of those books that makes you want to scream “YES! I KNOW!” and then berate your husband for not understanding. Poor Maribeth – I feel you, girl! Not that I’ve ever had a heart attack and had to rely on my family being able to fend for themselves and let me recuperate. BUT I have often wondered just how well, or not, they would do under those circumstances.

The tasty thing about this book is that you get to live out that evil little fantasy vicariously through Maribeth, as she takes the plunge on your behalf. And it is satisfying as all get out. Maribeth actually does just pack up and leave her family to their own devices, heading off to who-the-hell-cares to do god-knows-what, just as long as it doesn’t involve looking after other people for a change. Regardless of whether you’re a parent or not, haven’t we all just wanted to throw our hands up in the air at some point and say “I’M OUT!”

So off she goes, with no real plan and not knowing how long she’ll stay away. She has to find a place to rent, a new grocery store, new friends, a new cardio specialist to keep an eye on her…..and for a while, she doesn’t seem to think about her family all that much, only writing the occasional un-sent letter to her children. But of course, with each passing day Maribeth examines her relationships – past, present and future – her own worth, and her happiness. We see her coming to realise that, even though they can be a pain in the arse and unbelievably inconsiderate at times, her family gives her life meaning and satisfaction that she can’t get otherwise. Having had them, she can’t go back to NOT having them. Being a mother and wife are integral to who she is.

I loved this book, it resonated with me so much and even weeks on from finishing it, I’m still thinking about it and realising new ideas to ponder in it. It’s an easy read, and if you love books that examine families and relationships and identity, then you must put this on your list.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Peculiarly Perfect – Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children Series by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children Series

by Ransom Riggs

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Published 2011-2015

Genres: Fiction/Fantasy/Young Adult

 A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

‘Peculiars – The hidden branch of any species, human or animal, that is blessed – and cursed – with supernatural traits. Respected in ancient times, feared and persecuted more recently, peculiars are outcasts who live in the shadows…’


Mel says…

It has been a long time, well since Harry Potter, that I have found a book series that captured my attention so quickly. Enter ‘Miss Peregrine’s’. I read the first book over 6 months ago, just before the birth of my first baby and I really enjoyed it, rating the first book 4 stars on Goodreads.

It was several months until I was able to get my hands on book two, Hollow City and I must admit, the plot just got better. The characters are so loveable and it is hard not to get attached to each and every one of the Peculiar Children as time goes on. The second book of the series picks up immediately where book one left off and it gets straight down to business. I loved the second book enough to give it a rare Five stars. It built perfectly on book one and just grew from strength to strength, with the introduction of further Peculiar’s and the great land that I now know as ‘Peculiardom’.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and that is how I felt while reading ‘Library of Souls’. It is hard to complete a series that has such complexities as Miss Peregrine’s, with so many dimensions to characters and landscapes, but Riggs has done a perfect job in tying up loose ends. Although it took me a while to complete the third instalment, this was due to life and not a reflection on the story itself. Trust me, I was not impressed at being stalled from devouring this gem, at all!

Overall, the Miss Peregrine series is a must read for fans of YA and fantasy. I LOVED the concept of storytelling through the use of old photographs, which is not something I have yet come across, but found that as the series went on, fewer photographs were used to depict events and characters, but that isn’t to say that this was a bad thing.

Ransom Riggs has created a world full of peculairities (pun intended) and I for one am a HUGE fan. I look forward to seeing the movies however, I hope that they stay true to the books.

Overall SERIES rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Bookfair book haul!

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My biggest bookfair haul yet!

Janelle says…

A couple of weeks ago was one of our most anticipated events of the year – the spring Lifeline bookfair (the other annual event we anticipate being the summer bookfair, of course). I took a leave day from work to go to the bookfair….using the excuse that I was taking the day off in lieu of my birthday which was 3 days earlier. But who am I kidding, I would have taken the day off regardless! Despite the fair being held in a smaller venue than usual this time, resulting in quite a squishy and uncomfortable experience, Mel and I (and baby Phoebe!) still had a ball as we always do. We were there for around 4 hours which is a bit of a record for us, and really made a morning of it, stopping for a coffee and a snack and a peruse of our books halfway through.

 In my years of attending the bookfair I have learned some valuable lessons-

  • the best time to go is always 9am on the first day – somehow, this is when the best books are up for grabs;
  • you mustn’t rely on a tote/grocery/shoulder bag to carry your books in, lest you be in pain. Rolling suitcases are the only way to go;
  • always carry water and a snack, just in case;
  • if you see a book that you’re not too sure about, just pick it up anyway. You can review your finds and cull them later if you must, but just go go go!

You see that picture up there? Probably one of my favourite pictures ever. And let’s face it, probably one of my best days ever! Anyway, the excitement still hasn’t worn off for me yet. I still have the massive book pile on the floor next to my bed (because I’ve run out of bookshelf space) which I look at every day, and it both makes me smile and makes me hyperventilate because WHEN AM I GOING TO FIND THE TIME TO READ THEM ALL?!

I went to the bookfair with no specific “list” in mind. I just know in my head what books are on my TBR, and my plan was – if you see them, grab them! So, what did I grab?

 

Books I don’t really know much about, but bought because I have heard either it or the author mentioned somewhere before, and/or because I liked the cover:

The World Without Us – Mireille Juchau

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: and other lessons from the crematory – Caitlin Doughty

The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell

After the Crash – Michel Bussi

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

Burial Rites – Hannah Kent

Clade – James Bradley

Swamplandia! – Karen Russell

The Hive – Gill Hornby

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

 

Books I bought by authors I haven’t read before, but because I’m jumping on the bandwagon:

The Passage – Justin Cronin

Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

Landline – Rainbow Rowell

 

Books I bought because I have the first books in the series and want to have a full set, even though I haven’t read those first books yet:

Home – Marilynne Robinson

Lila – Marilynne Robinson

A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson

 

Books over which I audibly squealed when I found them, such was my delight:

The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood

Girl Waits with Gun – Amy Stewart

Gold Fame Citrus – Claire Vaye Watkins

Oryx & Crake – Margaret Atwood

 

Books I found which weren’t previously on my TBR, but which spoke to me at the time:

A Journey to Peace through Yoga – Lynette Dickinson

Ice Cream & Sadness – Cyanide & Happiness Vol. 2

 

So this brought my total of books I own and haven’t read up to 135, noting that I have since read The Natural Way of Things. I don’t want to think about how many years it will take me to read the other 134….

 

Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think? Did you go to the Lifeline bookfair?

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Mini-reviews – what I’ve read in the past three months

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Janelle says…

I feel like I have been neglecting LBoB over the past few months. I think it’s been a combination of having had other activities I’ve needed to prioritise in my spare time, and feeling like my recent reads weren’t anything to write home (or to you!) about. I’ve actually been finding it difficult to concentrate in the act of reading, and I feel like I’ve become more impatient too – if not much is happening in a book and there are long stretches of seemingly useless banter, I get very cranky!

But I HAVE been reading, so I thought I would do a round-up of what I’ve read lately, or mini-reviews if you will. Here’s what I’ve read since my last individual book review back in July, and what I thought:

 

The Girl With All the Gifts – M.R. Carey (Fiction / Thriller)

5 stars

I just loved the premise of this book, and it didn’t disappoint. Something was happening every few pages in this book, all the while teasing you to choose sides and guess where it’s all leading, which inevitably is to a satisfying ending. Recommend.

 

City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1) – Cassandra Clare (Fiction/Fantasy/YA)

4 stars

I had a craving for some fantasy YA, and found this on audiobook from my library. Even though it was a bit cliche in parts, I really enjoyed immersing myself in this world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders, enough to dip into the second book in the series a bit later….

 

The Midnight Zoo – Sonya Hartnett (Fiction/YA)

1 star

Another audiobook, this one was a very quick read and sounded quite sweet – two young brothers, stranded in a place annihilated by war, take refuge in a zoo where they discover a menagerie of talking animals. But no, it was just boring. I only bothered to finish it because I knew it was so short.

 

Uprooted – Naomi Novik (Fiction/Fantasy)

4 stars

On a fantasy roll! This one was on my wishlist for so long, and it just kept getting thrown in my face, in the end I had to just run to the library to get it. I actually would like to re-read this at some point, because I adored the mystical, slightly dark, super magical world that Novik has created (I believe this story is based on a traditional folk tale), but for some reason I really struggled to focus each time I picked it up. It may have been the weight of it (hardcover) combined with the small font. Would still recommend though.

 

City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments #2) – Cassandra Clare  (Fiction/Fantasy/YA)

2 stars

Back for more. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first in the series, there didn’t seem to be as much happening, and I just couldn’t be sympathetic to some of the teenager-problems going on. I’d still give this series one more crack though by moving on to #3, before I threw in the towel.

 

Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay (Non-fiction/Essays)

DNF

SO DISAPPOINTED. The essays in this book weren’t necessarily bad, in fact a couple of them were really entertaining (particularly the one about the intricacies of the professional poker world). But I went in to this expecting some strong statements about feminism in modern day culture, and most of the time I couldn’t see that represented in what I was reading. It felt more like a memoir to me, which is fine, just not what I signed on for.

 

Smoke – Dan Vyleta (Fiction/Fantasy)

1 star

All I knew about this one, is that it is set in a world where people’s bodies smoke if they are sinful or evil. That conjures up a lot of questions for me, so I just had to do it. But that general idea was as exciting as this book got. It got real confusing really fast, I had absolutely no idea what was going on or what the characters motives were, and even though I stuck it out to the end I still couldn’t really tell you what happened.

 

Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls #1) – Maggie Stiefvater (Fiction/Fantasy/YA)

DNF

I went into this hoping it wouldn’t be too Twilight-esque, and liking the idea of a girl having a human connection with a wild wolf. But about a third of the way through, I’d had enough of “the feelings” and how amazing they were. It was becoming clear that it was running too parallel to Twilight for my liking.

 

The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood (Fiction/Literary)

2 stars

Oh, that cover. What could possibly go wrong? I nearly shrieked with joy when I saw this amongst the piles at the recent local bookfair. I dived into it straight away….and it was weird….and then it got weirder….and weirder and more confusing….and I was confused and a little disgusted too….and then it ended and I was more confused than ever. I know there are messages and ideas in here, but they were too abstract for my liking. There was no resolution at the end. I have questions. I need closure.

 

So, that’s what I’ve been up to for the past few months. There were a few good reads in there, but overall, it has been a disappointing reading time. I’m desperately hoping that I’ll pick some reads soon that really blow my mind!

Have you read any of the above books? Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts?

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