The January 2017 TBR

 

My parents’ room used to be my room, and now I regret the switch because now they get better lighting! Actually, no I don’t. I needed the space.

 

Already, I almost typed 2016 when writing this! These are all the books I want to get through over January and February. Just looking at this pile, I think I might set my Goodreads challenge goal for thirty or forty books. It definitely sounds more achievable looking at last year’s list.

Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

These were from the Birmingham Library. As you can see I wanted to read more Japanese authors out of curiosity. Probably due to the effect of the next book…

Battle Royale: Remastered by Koushun Takami

Yes, I love this book. Yes, I have two copies. This is the second translation. I’ve started it, and so far I can say it flows a lot better than the first translation, but I miss some of the impactful phrasing from the first. We’ll see as I go on.

The Night Manager by John Le Carre
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

These were both freebies from last July’s #PRHJobHack event I attended then, and I have started both. At the time I felt they were hard to digest but I also felt these were reads that just needed time and investment and that’s what I’ll do when I get around to it.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I bought a tattered copy of this on Amazon – just to read. This is another ‘Battle Royale’ induced read because the blurb compares the story to this one. I had actually read it before, for the same reason too, but didn’t really see the resemblance or appreciate it much and I’m hoping I’ll pick up more this time around.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

I picked these up in perfect condition from a charity shop in Glasgow in October. Again, yet to read them. They both stretch my comfort zone a bit so we’ll see about these! I did read and enjoy Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn so my hopes are a bit higher for Sharp Objects.

His Illegal Self by Peter Carey
The Mammoth Cheese by Sheri Holman

These, I picked up from a book sale of the library cast offs at school… In the first half of the year! I need to get these over and done with. These are stuck at the top of the pile on my desk as I type in the hopes I pick them up and read them first.

Neverwhere: The Illustrated Edition by Neil Gaiman
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Red Rising by Pierce Brown

On the other hand, these were the books I got for Christmas and I stuck them at the bottom of the pile so that I’d have to read the others before I could treat myself to these. Honestly, knowing myself I’ll just dig them out to read anyway!

This reading pile makes me happy, though. I’ve never had a pile this big. It makes me all excited to dive in.

Until next time,

X

 

Under My Christmas Fairy Lights, because I was too lazy for a tree this year. 


Christmas changes a lot as you grow older. When I was little I was definitely one of those kids who went through the Argos catalogue and pointed out what I liked. Then I noticed it was always what I wanted when I pointed it out to the parents, and then I became more aware of how expensive things were and made sure to pick something that wasn’t too pricey. Then after moving to secondary school I actually had friends and not enough money to get them something nice. Now, the question is what to get. I really hate giving out half-hearted presents and love to give them when I know the recipient will love it.

My parents and I don’t give each other presents often these days, so instead it falls to me and my siblings to get things for each other. We usually just appreciate the food and the days off at home. Good times.

Anyway. Here are the gifts I got this year.

Garnier Micellar Water – believe it or not, I still haven’t tried a micellar water yet and where better to start than the most popular high street choice, in a travel bottle? Q was surprised to hear I haven’t tried one yet, and well… I just never felt the need, but this is great for my lazy self. It’s now offered in a standard bottle, a travel size, and a gigantic jumbo size, as well as many variations of the original formula across Garnier’s other skincare lines.
I’ve already given it a go, and it’s definitely a good option when I get home after work and want to get rid of the makeup but without moving from my desk… I’ll still do the full cleansing routine later on in the evening, though.
Will 2017 be the year I also try a cleansing oil? Probably.

Studio London Makeup Brush Set – finally, I have enough makeup brushes to put them on rotation for cleansing. This is a simple set of the most essential brushes. They look pretty on my stand, are quite soft and do their job when I swish things about on my face. That’s all I want in my brushes, really.

TaoTronics Bluetooth Headphones – with the demise of my headphone jack on my phone, these have already proven to be invaluable. I cannot be without my music on the way to work. The battery lasts 6 hours and can be recharged using the same mini USB plug I use for my phone.

Neverwhere: the Illustrated Edition by Neil Gaiman – yes yes yes to the Gaiman/Riddell dream team. This is just gorgeous, inside and out. I’ve read this before, and years ago, so it’ll be lovely to revisit this story with the illustrations.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – this has been one of the more delectable sounding items on my reading list and I’m so glad I have a copy now.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown – another item from the wishlist, that is now on the TBR list! I hear a lot of good things about this novel and I can’t wait to read it. Also, all these books have red spines. They look very nice together.

I’m really grateful for the gifts I got this year. How was your Christmas?

Lots of love,

X

My Reading Round-up of 2016

First off, I have to wish you all a Happy New Year! We can all now wave goodbye to that absolute train wreck that was 2016, and welcome the apocalypse of 2017 instead. Best of luck to you all, haha!

In 2016, little was done about reading or book-blogging until the summer arrived, largely due to my A-Level exams. Luckily, I think I forsaw this coming and only put 12 books on my Goodreads reading challenge at the beginning of the year!

Swanky new camera shots make their debut. YAAA

The Great

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
About – A boy who discovers that the peculiar children his grandfather so often spoke about are real, and even more strangely, still alive after all those years.
I read this, loved it, shoved it onto my sister, watched the movie with her, and proceeded to tell all my friends who loved the book to not watch the movie. I mean, the movie was also good, but to really enjoy it you’ve got to detach yourself from the book version, unfortunately.

The Long Walk by Stephen King (As Richard Bachman)
About – One hundred boys on a very long walk to the death. The winner is the last one still walking.
As a lover of Battle Royale, this one sounded really intriguing. It’s less violent, but it feels just as deadly. The characters talk to one another, and they’re not necessarily all enemies of one another. If you liked BR like me, you may also enjoy this.

Wonder by R.J Palacio
About – A boy with facial deformities going to school for the first time.
I spotted this in a few round-ups, one by Maddie and Bee, and remembered that my sister had a copy. This was lying on our bookshelf for over a year before I decided to give it a go, and boy am I so glad I did. I genuinely loved all the characters and this evoked actual emotion in me. Actual. Feels.

The Good, or the Half-Forgotten 

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
About – A girl whose old love letters are sent out in the mail by accident.
Not the story I was expecting it to head into, but this was a gift from AT and she’d gone through the book and post-it-noted her favourite bits with little comments. It was probably the reason why I enjoyed the book a lot more than I might have otherwise.

More Than This by Patrick Ness
About – A boy who commits suicide… then wakes up again, all alone, with no idea why.
I often walked past Patrick Ness’ books in the school library but never took one out to read. It sounded interesting but not enough for me to want to take it out. This book did, and it was also the book that made me think ‘what the crap, I need to read more from this guy.’ This book is also the reason why this section is called ‘half forgotten’. I remember really enjoying this and nothing else about it.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
About – dramatic, main-character-saturated world, but focusing on the extras, so to speak.
This concept just really appealed to me. A kind of story we might all be used to, only looked at from such a different angle it’s something else entirely. It’s both fun and casual, but then I remember having a moment where a particular line just put me on the verge of crying because I could 100% relate, for a very personal reason.

Daphnis and Chloe by Longus
About – A boy and a girl, protected by the gods, meet and fall in love.
A quaint little Greek tale I picked up at Penguin’s Job Hack, I didn’t think I’d enjoy it but it was so over-dramatic and cliched, I found myself laughing. It was a quick little read and a lovely pick-me-up in the morning.

Rose Madder by Stephen King
About – A long-time victim of domestic abuse makes a sudden decision to run away in fear of her life.
This definitely doesn’t take the turn you think it would, and I think for all its madness I really wanted the ending to be a little different. Norman was a truly disturbing villain, and I liked watching Rosie’s character develop. Oh, but I also decided I don’t really do suspense as a genre, but I still enjoyed this.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
About – A woman is hired to be a carer for a man who is paraplegic.
It was sweet, it was charming, I see why people love it so much, but I just didn’t love it as much.

Coraline and Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman
About – Coraline is about a bored girl who uncovers creepy things in her new home, and Fortunately, the Milk is about a Dad’s journey to get a pint of milk for the household.
Both are definitely books I wish I’d read earlier in my childhood. I think my past self would have loved these a lot.

The Forgotten – or worse

The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins
About – A woman who spots something unnerving on her daily commute.
The first book I have read in which I hated all the characters. I sort of understand the rise in flawed protagonists, but the whole cast were just negative all around, and in the end I was actually hoping more of them would be killed off.

 There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff
About- if God were a teenage boy…
The idea of this is great. But I think its best quotes were used up in its blurb and inside cover, and then the rest of the story played out in such a meh way.

Overall, it’s been a year of varied reading! My TBR pile is already bigger than my usual ’12-books-for-Goodreads’ so here’s to another year of books, books, and more books.

Until next time,

X

Workshop with Penguin Random House!

Hi everyone!

So, as I’m typing, I’ve been home for a few hours now and I’m currently chowing down my Penguin-branded M&Ms and rearranging my haul of freebies (I love you, Penguin <3) to take some ‘instagrammable’ photos. It’s as much a word as ‘discoverability’.

Penguin Random House held a workshop ‘Job Hack’ day for people to learn about the publishing process, bust a few myths and show us how they stay relevant to current consumers through new, innovative ideas towards storytelling. I got the promotional email through my school – the first of many that get sent out to my year group that I was actually interested in! I am very grateful to be one of the 30 people chosen to take part.

It was an 18+ event (but not explicit or anything, not to worry…) and I think I might have been one of the youngest people there, having just finished my A-Level exams whilst others were in university or already graduated. A number of people were also students or former students of English Language/Literature but the fact that I was hoping to study Psychology didn’t seem too much out of place.

There’s something about being an adult that makes human bingo less intimidating. Human bingo was our icebreaker of the day, and it’s when you have a grid of facts which you have to fill with the names of the people you meet as you quickly socialise. I’d done this before two years ago at a college induction day and that was super awkward because no one seemed to want to talk to complete strangers, but here it was more comfortable.

From a host of awesome people currently working at Penguin, we then heard all about the publishing process and how a book goes from manuscript to retail bookshelf – which was just what I’d been hoping to find out about! We also had to think of creative blurbs for unusual audiences and fresh campaigns to promote cool books. Unfortunately, I didn’t win any of the prizes up for grabs but it was a lot of fun and challenging to do.

(That’s me in the denim blue top!)
By ‘fresh campaigns’ in the tweet they mean marketing Pride and Prejudice to a male reader who likes discovering ‘new’ authors, or marketing Assassins’ Creed to a middle aged woman. This was hard but it provoked us into thinking about these stories from different angles to suit different kinds of readers.

In between activities, we chatted about each other, how we all got really confused trying to find the building and, of course, Pokemon Go! The cool HR guy, Neil, saw us and made an interesting face… then tweeted about it.

(In my defence: the wifi was free, there’s a Pokestop across the road and I caught a Krabby.)

I really liked the presentation on how the publishing industry is staying relevant today. Everything is going digital, so Penguin is now competing not just with other publishers, but companies like the BBC, and Apple in curating digital content. They create apps and websites for new releases or special days, or just to raise awareness of a story, such as games based on Roald Dahl’s ‘The Twits’. They also have a special budget for experimenting and innovating on new storytelling projects (such as Strata, linked here) that aren’t just another e-book.

You might be a person that is tired of seeing ‘YouTubers’ everywhere these days (or can’t imagine how Zoella broke records with what seems like a sappy teen romance) but vlogging is new – and so is putting it in a story. It’s also not unheard of to publish a book by a person with an already huge established audience, and is actually tactically sound, right? Such people also tend to be active online to promote their new releases – Dan and Phil, for example, popped up in presentations today (and I might have been the only Phangirl on my table, and I would love to read their book. Which I haven’t. Yet). They do live shows streamed online, they did a tour to promote the book worldwide, and they filmed a book release trailer for their YouTube channels and ‘behind the scenes’ videos. There’s a lot of possibilities there, and publishers need to make use of social media channels and technology to get ahead of the game.

At the end of the session, we were told to help ourselves to the freebies. I got a bag, a notebook, a pen, and five great titles to bless my reading list. They offered us a pile of books and told us to help ourselves; I may have stood holding my haul for a moment, a little overwhelmed with emotion and internally squealing. I’ve not had spending money for books in a while so I hadn’t read any of the titles before, and I may well just lock myself in my room for a few days to read them.

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Penguin. Branded. M&Ms. 🍫#prhjobhack

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Today’s Job Hack was the first of its kind, and it was amazing. I would really recommend this experience if this gets rolled out in a city closer to you. Penguin RH Careers did a great job on putting this together and their passion for publishing and its many divisions shone through.

This experience has certainly inspired me and sparked lots of new excitement. I attended the session not as someone who was considering it as an career path (although it does sound very appealing now!) but as a writer who would hopefully be sending in the manuscripts one day that would go through that publishing process. It’s given me more motivation to work on and develop the very many projects I have, to build up my social media ‘brand’ and bring back the writing side blog that I foolishly abandoned last year right after starting it. It has been newly renamed Swan Sentences and is undergoing a bit of a reboot – stay tuned!

Here’s to more of the super-cool projects from Penguin that I will now definitely be keeping an eye out for!

Until next time, when I may have stopped gushing about the free books,

X

P.S. Afterwards, a group of us went for a Poke-walk around the city centre. When someone calls out ‘Stop! There’s a Squirtle!’ You stop. You must stop. It was the first time I’d been in the city centre since PokeGo came out and wow, it’s a lot busier!

P.S.S. I wrote a short tale for SONG’s Citadel and you should totally check out what we wrote.

Winter Holiday Reading 2015: More Than This by Patrick Ness

So a friend of mine throughly loves Patrick Ness, and whilst I’ve seen his books around for the entirety of my secondary-school life, I haven’t picked any of them up. Mostly because his books don’t sound much like my ‘thing’. This is one of, if not the, newest of his books.

image

‘More Than This’ is about a boy who dies drowning, but then wakes up alone on a different land, with many questions.

So. Many. Questions.

If you are looking for a twisty, turning, riveting plot, then don’t read it.

The ‘movement’ in this story is propelled more by character development than by actual things happening, but I found it a really interesting read nevertheless. In terms of things happening, questions were answered, but far more was left unanswered. It makes me hope for a second book, but at the same time I would be quite content for Ness to leave it there. The characters found their personal answers, and that was enough.

Go in with an open mind and this book won’t disappoint. I think I’ll pick up more of Patrick Ness’ books in future.

Until next time,

X

Winter Holiday Reading: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

I finished a book as the winter holidays began. (Over a month ago, I know!)

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is, by far, not the most appealing title, and the blurb reads like a supernatural rip-off of the Hunger Games. Seriously, I hate YA blurbs these days. I thought marketers wanted the book to stand out, not make it the same as every other plot out there.

Remember to ignore the blurb, people.

Anyhow, this book was pleasantly good. My standards were low as usual anyway, but this was a great read.

In Holly Black’s Coldtown world, vampires run rampant worldwide, but walls have been built around the towns with major vampire outbreaks to keep the two places apart. The main character, Tana, wakes up from a weekend party to find that she is one of very few survivors of an attack, and suspecting that she had turned Cold (as in, got bitten) she begins her adventure to a Coldtown with her ex boyfriend and a vampire.

My favourite part about this universe is the integration of social media, blogging, and their role in the story. The glamourous Coldtown parties are broadcasted nationwide, and people devote themselves to the journey into a coldtown, make money from it, seek fame from it. Of course, it’s never all that great. What’s so good about this is that somehow, I can imagine it happening in our world if vampires and coldtowns actually became a thing.
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On the other hand, some character decisions don’t make too much sense but I’m letting that pass, because it’s the heat of the moment and we can’t all make the perfect decision in these situations.

All in all, an unexpectedly satisfying vampire read.

Until next time,

X

 

Summer Reading 2015: The Perks of Being a Wallflower By Stephen Chbosky

I know it’s the end of summer but I found this in the backlog of drafts and didn’t realize I hadn’t posted it yet!

I’d been meaning to take this out for a long long time but could never find it in the school library. I spotted it randomly whilst looking for a final book to borrow for the summer and I swear a light was shining down on it as I reached my hand up to the rotating shelf. 

I started it one night as a little break from Thinking, Fast and Slow (which I still haven’t reached the halfway point for) like when I knit a big project broken up by hats or fingerless mitts or something. I was planning on reading just a few chapters at a time, but that clearly did not happen as I zipped through the entire thing in under a day.

Chbosky writes Charlie’s letters simply, in short sentences that somehow capture the things that go on quite well. It’s not a book of very deep, poetic things, but the simple sentences tell a very complex story. I found myself entirely on Charlie’s side and crying just about as often as he did, keeping back tears for most of the second half of the book.

This book is nothing short of magical and very much redefines teenage life. Mine isn’t over yet but suddenly I feel compelled to do something with it after reading this book.

Would I recommend? Yes. Big stinking yes.

X