Sunday, January 27, 2019

Favourite Books 2018

I read 82 books in 2018, which was more than my Goodreads target of 52. I’ve gone through them and picked my 5 favourite fiction, non-fiction and YA books. As I’ve pointed out in a previous favourites post, I keep YA separate not because I think it’s lesser but because I love reading it and think it deserves its own highlight.
Top 5 Fiction Books 2018

1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I was suffering a horrible reading slump during the summer and this book pulled me out of it! Legendary actress Evelyn Hugo has agreed to do a rare interview. She specifically requests Monique Grant, a low level magazine writer, much to the confusion of Monique and her boss. Evelyn tells her amazing life story through her seven husbands. It’s full of glamour, secrets and drama and I can’t wait to pick up more by Jenkins Reid.

2. From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan. Take three very different men in a small town in Ireland: Syrian refugee Farouk, 23 year old heartbroken Lampy and elderly dying John. They are all struggling with their own lives and pasts. Their stories are beautifully written, so poignant at times. Donal Ryan has such an amazing way with words. And while the characters look like they have nothing in common, their lives are all invisibly threaded together, which becomes clear by the end of the novel. And my heart wrenched when it happened, the same way it happened when reading Ryan's previous novel All We Shall Know. Beautiful in a heart wrenching way.

3. Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce. When Emmeline Lake takes a job at a magazine, she has visions of being a Lady War Correspondent during World War II. Instead she finds herself working for the formidable Henrietta Bird, typing out response for her advise column. Mrs Bird has strict instructions, any letters with Unpleasantness must be binned IMMEDIATELY. However these letters tug on Emmy’s heart and she finds herself replying to them secretly as Mrs Bird. While this book at first seems a bit like if Anne from the Famous Five grew up (lots of jolly goods and smashings!), underneath the fizzy frothiness is some really heart and bravery. A real feel good charming novel.

4. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. The books opens with the narrator in a different body and has to find out who he is. He discovers that Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 10pm and he has seven days to figure it out. He wakes in a different body each day, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.  A murder mystery with a twist! Full review here.

5. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith. After a 3 year wait, we finally got our hands on book 4 in the Cormorant Strike series! It was a big hefty read (the biggest book I read last year) but it had me hooked and I loved seeing Strike and Robin again.

Honorary mentions to Binti by Nnedi Okorafor and The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory.

Top 5 Non-Fiction Books

1. Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh. A book on the relationship of food, eating disorders, feminism, fatness, class, culture, privilege and pleasure, amongst other issues too. Reading this book was a pleasure and Ruby has such a refreshing attitude when it comes to food. I have a full review on my Goodreads which I’ll probably post here in it’s own blog post.

2. My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen. Lily doesn’t hold back in this memoir, it’s a warts and all book that highlights the highs and lows from her life. I was a big big fan of Lily’s first album, I listened to it constantly the summer of 2006. While I knew bits and pieces of Lily’s life (mostly through the tabloids), it was interesting to hear it from her own perspective. There was a lot I didn’t realise, like the story with her stalker which is terrifying. I listened to it on audiobook and really recommend it this way as Lily reads it herself.

3. I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. Maggie replays 17 brushes with death that had an impact on her life, from her own childhood illness to being away from home at 18 years old to giving birth and almost drowning on holiday. I decided to listen to this book after seeing Jen Campbell listening to it when going for a walk. Within the first 5 minutes of listening my mouth was agape (first story is the one being 18 years old and encountering a man when on a walk alone). A beautiful and powerful read that will stick with you for a long time.

4. James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes by James Acaster. I love James and his sense of humour so I decided to give this a shot. And boy am I glad that I did. We do get the story of James and his upbringing but mainly it’s a series of hilarious stories (or the scrapes that only James can get himself in to) that will have you laughing til you cry. Another one I listened to and highly highly recommend it, it had me snorting and stifling giggles in the work canteen and in Lidl.

5. From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty. As I’ve stated here before I’m a big fan of Caitlin and her work (her YouTube channel and previous book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes). Caitlin travels the world and explore death in different cultures, which was fascinating. Seeing as I enjoy listening to Caitlin in her videos, I listened this one too as an audiobook. Caitlin now has a podcast too Death in the Afternoon which I also recommend!

Honourable mentions to both of the No Such Thing as Fish books, Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson, Shrill by Lindy West and Feminists Don’t Wear Pink curated by Scarlett Curtis.

Top 5 YA Books 2018

1. Save the Date by Morgan Matson. Set over the weekend of her sister’s wedding, anything that can go wrong will go wrong for Charlie Grant and her family. I really enjoyed how the story was told over a weekend and as Charlie’s mother is the creator of a comic book strip based on the family, we got a comic strip at the beginning of each chapter which was very cute. Coming from a large family, I loved the family dynamic in this and I could see this as a movie.

2. Wing Jones by Katherine Webber. Wing lives with her mother, brother, her Ghanaian grandmother and her Chinese grandmother. Wing doesn’t fit in and spends a lot of time with her brother, his girlfriend and his best friend. When her brother is in an accident, Wing begins to run and discovers she’s pretty good at it. Set in the 1990s, it’s a sweet coming of age story that explores being different, finding your strengths and learning who you are. I loved that the book didn’t shy away from some of the harsh realities of life, like money problems. A slow burner, you’ll find yourself cheering on Wing.

3. Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee. The last book in The Agency quartet, Mary Quinn is an undercover agent and spy in Victorian times. I loved the series, I enjoy books set in Victorian times and having a spy element just makes it much better. Book one is A Spy in the House.

4. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. The second Matson book on the list, I would have avoided doubling up on authors but this made me feel things. Taylor and her family go to their family lake side house for one last summer together. Taylor hasn’t been to the lake house in years and when last there, something happened that caused a fallout with her best friend and her first boyfriend. Of course both these people are there for the summer and Taylor must come to terms with her past while trying to deal with the future for her family. Poignant novel that made me cry and smile.

5. Obsidio by Aime Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Final book in the Illuminae series, it’s a fun sci-fi series set in space. The books are told through files, transcriptions and the musings of a crazy computer system which is super unique and interesting.

Honorary mentions Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, a western which was something new for me and To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han, which I read before watching the Netflix film which was super cute and Lara Jean has a fantastic wardrobe.

I read some graphic novels as well this year but unlike my 2016 post I didn’t include any favourites because my favourites were continuations from series that I’m in the middle of and enjoying (Saga, Paper Girls, Ms Marvel) and if they weren’t part of a series I already like, then I wasn’t overly impressed or blown away by them. My library is also behind on these series, particularly Lumberjanes and Squirrel Girl which is such a shame.

While the books avoid were fantastic and I loved them, overall I think my reading year was quite blah. There was a lot of 2 star reads, I DNFd some books and I had a big reading slumping. I’m just glad that there were some highs and that I read these gems.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

2018 Book Stats

I love looking at how my reading habits over the years change. I know I planned to do this last year, I remember writing everything out and getting it all together. Only I didn’t write the blog post. But I’ll use the stats here so yay!


Fiction vs Non-Fiction Books

graph

27% of the books I read last year were non-fiction (and a lot of those were read during Nonfiction November tbh). I don’t know what I expected this to look like but I am pleased. Since 2014 my non-fiction book reading has been dropping (35% in 2014, 29% 2015, 20% 2016 and a shockingly poor 12% in 2017) so it’s nice to see it rise again! I think Nonfiction November really helped, looking back on when I first tried it in 2016 it worked then too (about half the non-fiction books I read that year were read in November and December!)


Physical Books vs E-Books vs Audio Books

graph (2)

As per 2014-2017, physical books are the main type of books I read. 2018 55% of the books I read last year were physical books. Over 50% of the books I’ve read 2014-2018 are physical books (except for 2016 when it was 49%). 2017 and 2018 saw decreases in e-books (46% in 2016 to 38% to 27%), probably because my audiobook usage increased from 5% in 2016 and 2017 to 18% in 2018! Its interesting to see that this increase in audiobooks has taken away from e-books but not the physical books I read.


Book Sources

graph (3)

I thought it would be interesting to see where I get my books, especially because I want to try tackle more of the books that I own. 39% of the books I read last year were books that I had purchased (be it physical books, e-books or audiobooks), compared to 40% from the library (physical books, e-books and audiobooks) and 21% Advanced Read Copies (I think all but one last year were e-books). I only have 2017 stats for this to compare to but in 2017 20% of the books I read were my own books, compared to 50% and 30% for library and ARCs respectively. So I’m pleased with that!

I didn’t really bother looking at looking at female vs male writers like I’ve done in the past. I know it’s still majority female and I can’t see it changing much this either.

I like that Goodreads gives you a snazzy graphic to breakdown your reading!

2018 books

2018 part 2


Average rating of 3.5 seems about right to me, there were some books I didn’t really enjoy much and being in a reading slump didn’t seem to make it any better.

Other fun facts

-I marked 4 books as DNF (Did Not Finish) on Goodreads, two which I had started in 2017 and didn’t finish.

-13 of the audiobooks I listened to were from Audible. 6661 minutes on their app! With November being the month I mostly used it (makes sense I was doing Non-Fiction November then)

-2018 is the first year I haven’t done BookTubeAThon since it started in 2013. I just wasn’t feeling the challenges this year, it felt a bit lacklustre challenge wise but I might join this year depending on the challenges or just to join in on Instagram and Twitter.

-Two themed months: Irish authors in March (4th time doing it since 2014) and Non-Fiction November (2nd time doing it). Both of which I’ll most likely do this year. I might also look into other themed weeks or months like Women in Translation or #OwnVoices October.

-Yearly reading challenge was Book Riot Read Harder challenge which I completed. You can check out the results in this post here.

Maybe this doesn’t interest anyone else but I like stats and numbers and seeing where things can be improved. The main thing I want to improve on in 2019 is reading more non-fiction and reading more of the books that I own (mainly so I can buy more!)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss Book Review

Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction by Gabrielle Moss book coverAs a tween and teenager, I devoured Sweet Valley and Baby-Sitters Club books. I just couldn't get enough! I was constantly at my library and I remember being very jealous a friend of mine got one of the Unicorn Club books out of the library before I had checked it out. I still love Sweet Valley stuff, I recently bought copies of Elizabeth and Jessica's Secret Diaries and the Double Love podcast is one of my favourites. So when I discovered Paperback Crush, I felt that same excitement I felt when seeing new Sweet Valley books: I just couldn't wait to get my hands on it!



Paperback Crush was an interesting look at 80s and 90s teen fiction, with some mentions to YA in the decades before then and how cultural changes in the 80s changed YA novels from that time. It is packed with nostalgia, full of series and covers of books popular from that time. As someone born in the late 80s, I wasn't familiar with a lot of the series but it was still fun to see the covers and learn about them. I was mainly familiar with Sweet Valley books, BSC, Point Horror and Fear Street but this book reminded me of the Anastasia Krupnik series by Lois Lowry (yes, she of The Giver fame!), I remember reading some of the Anastasia series. And THANK YOU for reminding me of those Isla Fisher books! Completely forgot they existed.


Favourite parts


-Nostalgia through the roof
-Seeing some of the ridiculous covers and laughing at them
-Interviews with authors, cover models, ghost writers
-The design is perfect, beautiful and I liked how the book was split into different chapters like Love, Friendship, Jobs etc
-Calls out the lack of diversity in these novels, how they often centred around white, rich middle class kids
-A list at the end for the publisher and cover art designer for each cover shown in the book. Which was great as I couldn't BELIEVE how similar the Dream Girls series by Rosemary Joyce looked compared to Sweet Valley ones, only to discover they were both done by the same artist James Mathewuse.

Sweet Valley High Jealous Lies, Dream Girls Anything to Win, Sweet Valley High Miss Teen Sweet Valley book covers

Jealous Lies was published first, then Anything to Win (both 1986). Miss Teen Sweet Valley  was in 1991, which looks like it in turn was influenced by Anything to Win. They have the same font Full circle!


Dislikes


-The books tries to balance between looking critically at these books and being snarky and funny and made it fall flat in places. I think I would have preferred it to poke fun more at how ridiculous these books could be.
-I felt it ended abruptly, there was no conclusion or wrap up. Once the Terror chapter ended, that was it, except for a list of Extra Reading and the credits cover art used in the book.
-At one point the All That Glitter series by Kristi Andrews is mentioned 'All That Glitters …. eponymous six book series' yet the cover shown on that page is for Award Night, which is book 8 (and you can clearly see it on the cover). My copy is an ARC from NetGalley so I thought it might be corrected, but a friend sent me a picture of her finished copy and it also says 6. It makes me wonder if there are other slips like that


If you grew up reading these books or want to know about the trends and history of YA books in the 80s and 90s, this is a good place to start. If you want something snarkier, there's plenty of blogs and podcasts that will have you covered.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2019 Aims

It’s 2019! It’s been a while since I’ve done a New Year’s Resolutions post but there are some things that I want to improve on. Not so much resolutions, I looked at the meaning for that and it’s something you absolutely intend to do or not do. I don’t like the sound of that, it’s too firm and rigid for me. So I’m calling them aims, something I have the intention of achieving. At the moment I just want to put down my intentions, I’ll work on setting goals to help me get there. And I’ll assess these things as I go along, something that’s important now might not be in a few months time, things change, people change. But for now these are the things I have in mind.


1. Reading

I have in the past done Reading Resolutions posts but for now I’ll just keep it to this post. I want continue doing the Book Riot Read Harder challenge, reduce the amount of books I own that I haven’t read and read a big book, preferably a Russian classic.


2. Creativity

I own a lot of cooking, baking and crafting books, as well as using Pinterest and Ravelry to save things I’m interested in. So I want to make at least one thing from each of my books, as well as some Pinterest and Ravelry items. I own a lot of craft supplies too, I get swept up in wanting to try things but then once I have the supplies I get scared to use them in case I mess things up and ‘waste’ the supplies. Essentially I need to work on my fears that it’s ok for something not to be 100% perfect.


3. Small Changes

The title of this is a bit vague but I saw something recently on Instagram about small changes when it comes to being eco. I want to incorporate that with buying less stuff, clearing out my home and using up things I have. Choosing the item with less packaging, not buying that cheap t-shirt, bringing a reusable cup when I get coffee, supporting more indie shops and businesses in person and online, eating more vegetarian meals. Just being a bit more aware of how I impact the world around me.


4. Planning for the future

Specifically money and health wise. But also jobs, travel plans, being more vocal on issues that are important to me etc. I know this is vague but I guess while the previous point was about how I impact the world, this one is to be more aware of how my actions now impact my future and the person I want to become.

So that’s it for now. Like I said, I’ll work on setting goals for these things, I might do a post on that or I might just get a notebook. Happy New Year and may 2019 bring great things for us all!

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