Book Reviews | June 2017

As some of you may know, I’m currently doing a reading challenge to read 40 books in a year, after falling way short of my 52 books target last year. To be honest this year is going pretty abysmally too – at the halfway point of the year I’ve read 14 books, about 6 behind schedule, so I have some catching up to do if I’m going to make it to 40 by the end of the year.

In the meantime, this is my 6-month mark review of the best books I’ve read in the last three months (yes I know it’s a bit late – I’ve been busy!). And what I have lacked in quantity, I have certainly made up for in quality… Continue reading

Book Reviews | March 2017

After last year’s failed attempt at reading 52 books in a year, I’ve scaled 2017’s challenge back to 40; a more manageable target that so far I am still managing to lag behind on. I have a preference for pretty, lyrical prose that demands I take time to appreciate, which usually means I take longer than average to finish a really good book. The usual distractions of social media, Netflix and blog browsing also take their toll, but reading has such a calming influence on my mind that I am trying to cut down on my screen time and reach for books instead. Here are the books I’ve enjoyed most in the first few months of 2017. Continue reading

For the Love of Print

At times like this, when life is hard and my reality feels a little too hard to face, escapism is key. Browsing flights, looking at job adverts in far-off cities and binge watching US teen dramas are all part of this coping mechanism, but nothing soothes me like curling up under a blanket with a book.

As an avid reader who always likes to have a book to hand and packs several books for every holiday, you’d expect me to have leapt on the Kindle bandwagon. But I’ve never been keen. Yes they’re super convenient and I’d save so much suitcase space, but for me nothing outweighs the comfort I feel when I open a paperback. I love the feel of the paper between my fingers, the musty smell of the pages, the beautiful cover designs. Continue reading

52 Books Reading Challenge: End of Year Review

A year ago I set myself the fairly ambitious challenge of reading 52 books in a year. The decision to do this challenge was driven mainly by the knowledge that I wasn’t reading as much as I used to; I’ve always been a bookworm and during university I burned through more than three books a week through sheer necessity, but in the last few years online distractions have pulled me further away from my bookshelves. I wanted to change that, and pay a little more attention to the variety of books I was choosing to read.

I came nowhere near hitting my 52 books target – the count currently sits at 36 and going by the size of my current read I’m only going to finish one more by the end of the year. But I have read significantly more than last year, and been more active in seeking out new authors and reading a more diverse range of literature. I’ve also loved recording my progress on Goodreads and reviewing the books, and plan to continue next year with a more manageable target. In the meantime, these are the books I’ve loved most over the last three months of the year. Continue reading

52 Books in 52 Weeks Reading Challenge

52 Books Reading Challenge: 9-Month Review

I’m now nine months into my ‘read 52 books in 52 weeks’ challenge, and I’m still a million miles behind reaching my target but I am so happy that it’s pushed me to dedicate more of my spare time to reading. I’m also really pleased with the book choices I made in the past three months; in my 6-month review I felt like I struggled to find even five books to talk about that I’d really enjoyed, but recently I’ve loved almost everything I’ve picked up. Here are my thoughts on some of my favourite books from the past three months. Continue reading

The Opposite of Loneliness, Marina Keegan

“We Have So Much Time”: On The Opposite of Loneliness

Aside from my Reading Challenge updates, I don’t really do book reviews on my blog. I think my English degree past leaves me worried that I’ll either come across as a pretentious twat, or try so hard to avoid coming across as a pretentious twat that I end up oversimplifying my thoughts to a mind-numbing extent. Whatever the reason, I usually just stick to short comments on my Goodreads account and discussions with my fellow bookworm pals, and that’s enough. But recently I read Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness, and it got under my skin. It’s still there. So I’m going to try and put into words exactly what pulled me so deeply into this book, and why if you only read one thing this year, this should be it. Continue reading

52 Books Reading Challenge: 6-Month Review

At the beginning of the year I challenged myself to read 52 books in a year, and I’ve now hit the halfway mark on that challenge. To be honest it’s got away from me a bit – 3 months in I was practically bang on target, but since then the numbers have slipped and I’m a shameful 8 books behind. I’m trying not to let it get to me too much; in the past month I’ve been on a solo holiday and moved house, and a lot of my free time before that was spent organising those things rather than relaxing with a book.

Hopefully I’ll be able to make some ground up in the coming months, but even if I don’t  I’ll still be happy that I committed more time to reading, and expanded the range of books I’m reading. Here are a few of my most notable reads from April to June. Continue reading

52 Books Reading Challenge: 3-Month Review

At the start of the year I was determined to kick start my reading habits, and set myself a challenge to read 52 books in 2016. Rather than being a target that I’ll race to hit, I’m treating the challenge as a way of reminding myself to always have a book on the go, and to read more widely.

As we reach the 3-month mark, I’m looking back at how I’m doing and what my favourite books have been. I’m currently 2 books behind schedule due to one long and challenging read, but I’m catching up fast and am feeling much better about the amount of time I’m committing to reading instead of aimlessly scrolling Twitter or watching Netflix. These are the books I’ve most enjoyed in the first 3 months. Continue reading

A Reading Challenge: 52 Books in 52 Weeks

This year, I’ve decided to take on a reading challenge, with the simple purpose of pushing myself to read more. I can’t believe it’s come to this. Really, I’m pretty ashamed. In my uni days I used to read at least 3 books a week for my English course, and even after I graduated there was a long period of time when I still devoured books, revelling in the joy of being able to read whatever I wanted instead of every choice being dictated by a required reading list. In the 7 months I was travelling I took huge advantage of hostel book swaps and never began a long-distance bus journey without a chunky novel in my bag, and when I first returned to the UK I had a 90-minute each way daily commute that I only survived with my head buried in a book.

Reading challenge-book collection Continue reading

Summer Book Haul

It recently came to my attention that my To Be Read pile had all but vanished, and it put me on edge. Although other life commitments mean I’m not as prolific a reader as I once was, I still always find it comforting to know that there’s a stack of books available to rifle through if I feel the need to pick up a new one, so to discover there was only one unread book in my bookcase was slightly disconcerting.

A visit to my favourite second-hand bookshop immediately shot to the top of my weekend to-do list. The Oxfam bookshop in Headingley is an absolute treasure trove with shelves catering for every genre you can think of; I literally don’t think I’ve ever left without making a purchase. The books are absolute bargains as well – with the price of a book averaging out at around £3.50 you’d be hard pushed to find cheaper on Amazon, and this way you’re paying for instant gratification instead of a painfully long delivery time, and helping a good cause!

After an especially successful trip I now have five new books, which at my current shamefully slow reading pace should be enough to last me the summer. Let’s have a look at what I got…

Summer book haul

Closing Time – Joseph Heller

This is actually my one remaining book from my last buying spree, and I’ve been putting off reading it because I’m still not sure what to think about it. Until now I never even realised that Catch-22 has a sequel, and I’m terrified that it’s going to be mind-numbingly mediocre. Even if it’s good, the book revisits the characters contemplating death as old men, and I can’t bear the thought of a character as remarkable as Yossarian dying of something as commonplace as old age…

The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood

For a feminist bookworm I’m still a relative Margaret Atwood newbie. I read Oryx and Crake at 20 and really enjoyed it, but I followed it up with Cat’s Eye and felt underwhelmed so neglected further reading in favour of more tempting prospects. However a row of Atwood books caught my eye and I remembered reading a lot of praise about The Blind Assassin, so at £2.99 I reasoned it was worth a try. I have very little idea what it’s about – even the blurb is cryptic – but I’m happy to leave it as a surprise!

The Beach – Alex Garland

I’ve seen Danny Boyle’s adaptation of The Beach and (Leo-swooning aside) struggled to pay attention for the full two hours, but I’m a firm believer in books being better than their film adaptations. Besides, most of my purchases are pretty heavy subject-wise, and with the adventure storyline and Thai island setting The Beach feels like a slight break from the serious stuff. I’ve got it earmarked as holiday reading – feels like the perfect material for a lazy day of sunbathing.

The Goldfinch – Donna Tarte

Possibly my most exciting find – I’m super thrilled by this one! Considering how relatively new this book is and the good condition it was in, I almost felt cheeky paying just £4 for it, but I wasn’t going to argue. I read The Secret History earlier this year and fell completely in love – the story was so intensely absorbing, the prose so breathtakingly flawless, that I couldn’t put it down. I haven’t been affected so deeply by a book in a long time, and I can’t wait to see if The Goldfinch measures up.

The Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

Eeeesh. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve picked this up before chickening out and putting it back on the shelf. Even the saleswoman winced at me as she scanned it through the till. Getting used to the slang is going to be a challenge but I’m cautiously optimistic, and I like the idea that I can pick up a made-up language while reading. However I might have to set aside a few hours to really get into this one; somehow it doesn’t feel like casual commute reading…

So there’s my reading list for the summer! What’s on yours?