2015 Reading Challenge

December 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Hey guys, so I found this post over on tumblr today:

2015It seems like a nice change from the usual 50 books a year I tend to do over on goodreads. It’s interesting and offers a lot of variety so I think I may try this for 2015. Though I’m a bit behind on my 2014 challenge, hopefully after my holidays start up and I’m back home in Ireland, I’ll be able to get through the last couple of books and reach 50 before the new year’s!

If any of you guys want to try this out as well, let me know! And if you have any suggestions for what kind of books to read for any of them, pop them in the comments section!

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Top 10 Books of 2013

January 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

10. Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine

Jess Aarons’ greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He’s been practicing all summer and can’t wait to see his classmates’ faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys’ side and outruns everyone.

That’s not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits.

9. Migritude – Shailja Patel

 The U.S. debut of internationally acclaimed poet and performance artist Shailja Patel, MIGRITUDE is a tour-de-force hybrid text that confounds categories and conventions. Part poetic memoir, part political history, MIGRITUDE weaves together family history, reportage and monologues to create an achingly beautiful portrait of women’s lives and migrant journeys undertaken under the boot print of Empire.

8. Eva Luna – Isabel Allende

An exotic dance that beguiles and entices… The enchanted and enchanting account of a  contemporary Scheherazade, a wide-eyed American  teller-of-tales who triumphs over harsh reality  through the creative power of her own imagination…

7. What’s Left of Me – Kat Zhang

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . .

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

6. The Girl Who Fell From The Sky – Heidi W. Durrow

This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African-American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white. In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, here is a portrait of a young girl – and society’s ideas of race, class, and beauty.

5. Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston

One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston’s beloved 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of fair-skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose. A true literary wonder, Hurston’s masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published—perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded novel in the entire canon of African-American literature.

4. The Wasteland – T. S. Eliot

3. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories – Angela Carter

From familiar fairy tales and legends – Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves – Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.

2. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work.

1. Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

I would highly recommend each and every one of these books. Some are more well-known than others, surely, but each are captivating in their own way, whether it’s writing, characters, plot or a combination of all three.

I know this is a tad late for the new year’s (being the 3rd day of 2014) but happy new year’s to all my followers and thank you for sticking with me as long as you have!

Reading Challenge – Part Two

December 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

26. Hero by Perry Moore

Read review here. My response to this book is no. Just no. I’d give it negative stars if I could.

27. Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters

I can’t remember much about this book except for the fact that I was excited to read it and hugely disappointed by the end of the book.

28. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

It was such a struggle to get through this book. I hated absolutely everything except for the prose.

29. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Very similar to Speak but equally engaging and enjoyable to read.

30. The Ticket-of-Leave Man by Tom Taylor

Read this for my Victorian Literature class. A melodrama – pretty funny but nothing too great.

31-33. Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Search

P. 1, P. 2, P. 3

Again, love the art, hate the story. Especially Part 3… just… what?

34. Eva Luna by Isabelle Allende 

Isabelle Allende is one of the best writers I have come across in 2013. She could probably write a grocery list beautifully and I would read it. It helps that the book was engaging in other aspects too but seriously, the prose is fantastic.

35. Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Often praised as one of King’s best works but I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t know if it was because I was still hung over from IT, but it just didn’t measure up to many other King novels, or even come close.

36. Peony in Love by Lisa See

Read my review here. Another book to which all I have to say is… no.

37. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

Read my review here. A really sweet book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

38. Out of my Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Really interesting concept but in the hands of an amateur writer. Very poor plot, characterisation and writing.

39. The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell 

This was just a really sad story. A well written sad story, but still very, very, very sad.

40-41. The Hybrid Chronicles

What’s Left of Me, Once We Were

Read my reviews here and here. Two wonderful books that I would highly recommend reading. Very much looking forward to the third book of the series.

42. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

Read my review here. This was a beautifully written, wonderful book about a girl’s struggles with being biracial.

43. Vlad by Carlos Fuentes

Read this for my Monsters of the Market class. It was… strange and disturbing but you couldn’t stop reading it. Many prominent parallels with Dracula.

44. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

Had to read this for my Reading Gender and Sexuality Class. I also wrote an essay on the scopic economies in the Blood Chamber and Angela Carter’s subversion of the fairy tale genre. I really loved this – it was engaging and beautifully written with really intriguing insight into ordinary fairy-tales.

45. Report from Planet Midnight by Nalo Hopkinson

Truly wonderful to see Hopkinson address the problems of representation and inclusion of people of colour in sci-fi and fantasy. Her short stories in the book were also engaging, and, as always, beautifully written.

46. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

I love Allie Brosh’s blog so it is unsurprising that I found her graphic novel to be just as funny and wonderful.

47. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Not what I was expecting when I originally heard of it but it was an interesting read with great artwork.

48. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

Nominated for the Man Booker Prize. It was interesting and really well written but kind of grasping at straws sometimes. It was pretty ambivalent in what it was attempting to portray but that could also be taken as a positive thing, I suppose.

49. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson 

Bridge to Terabithia is another movie that I adore and it was wonderful to find that I loved the book too. Wonderfully written, simplistic and engaging.

And finally…

50. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

I love the ambivalence of the structure of this book – is it a memoir? a collection of short stories? a novel? It’s a mixture of all of those, perhaps. Wonderfully written, beautifully structured and incredibly enjoyable to read.

Reading Challenge – Part One

December 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Some of you may be aware of the reading challenge that goodreads enables you to take every year. This year, I set out my goal to read 50 books throughout the year (possibly not the best idea, considering it is my final year of university) and finally finished 50 books today. I’ve already written reviews for numerous of these 50 books but I thought a short review for each book couldn’t hurt, along with a Top 10 of 2013. Here’s the first 25:

1. The House of Memories by Monica McInerney 

Kind of sad this is the first book I read of 2013, apparently. It wasn’t the worst but very amateur in characterisation, plot, writing… everything, really.

2. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

My problems with this book has more to do with the fact that it’s a fetishized, sexualised and often unrealistic representation of the Japanese geisha culture and that Arthur Golden profited from the book whilst, not only erasing the actual experiences of geishas, but actually putting them in harm’s way and being entirely unapologetic for it. You can find more about this here.

3. The Things We Did For Love by Natasha Farrant 

I don’t think I even finished this one. It wasn’t terrible but pretty uninteresting, and the writing was rather bad. I just couldn’t bring myself to keep going.

4. IT by Stephen King

I would have called myself a pretty huge Stephen King fan before I read this book. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that it’s pile of misogynistic crap. I can’t go into detail without huge, huge spoilers, but I will say that despite whatever other merits the book may have (and yes, it is well-written and interesting despite its length) the end is more than disappointing. It’s not worth the 1000 pages or so you have to read to get to it.

5. The Awakening and Selected Short Stories by Kate Chopin

I was pretty excited for this as it’s a well-appraised feminist book but I was pretty disappointed. I really shouldn’t have been surprised, considering when Chopin wrote it. But at the end it came down to white, middle-class feminism. Nothing particularly radical or exciting.

6. Looking for Alaska by John Green

John Green is obviously a huge phenomenon in the young adult genre and this was my first book by him. I could understand his appeal and appreciate that his prose is pretty well crafted. I even quite enjoyed the second half of the book but all of the characters irritated me in the first half of the book – most of all Alaska.

7. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I don’t think I even have to say anything much about this. I love Oscar Wilde.

8. Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

I fell in love with Kingsolver after The Poisonwood Bible and wasn’t disappointed by this book. Although it’s fairly different from The Poisonwood Bible, much less takes place, it’s wonderfully written and an enjoyable read.

9. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

10. The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

A pretty generic Young Adult Novel. It’s not bad, really, just a little bland.

11. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I enjoyed this a lot more than Looking for Alaska. It’s a pretty sweet book but I felt like it dragged on a little bit too much and at times the characters irritated me (yes, I have an overarching problem with John Green’s characterisation).

12. If I Stay by Gayle Forman 

Read my review of this here. It’s a pretty interesting concept but with fairly terrible execution. Overall, pretty bland.

13-15, Avatar The Promise

p. 1, p.2, p.3

I’m a huge Avatard. I have been since I was about 10. And as much as I love the artwork in these comic books, the writing and plot are disappointing.

16. The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot 

Had to read this for my Modern American Literature class in university. I also wrote an essay about the gendered social relations in The Fire Sermon, and I think writing essays about a work always makes you appreciate it better. The Waste Land is pretty much a literary masterpiece and I think everyone should endeavour to read it.

17. My Ántonia by Willa Cather

Another book I had to read for my Modern American Literature class. It was very interesting, engaging and well written. The narrative structure was probably my favourite thing about it.

18-21. A Song of Ice and Fire

A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows

I think I wrote a generic review of the series here. It’s a very popular fantasy series right now, obviously. I won’t argue that the plot is very engaging and it’s an interesting book to read… if you can get past the fact that George R. R. Martin actually cannot write. And this is not even an exaggeration. I have in actuality cringed at some of the sentences he has written. You can ignore it, however, so long as the plot stays interesting… which stops at A Feast for Crows. It took me a long time to get through that book. Apparently, the next book is better but I haven’t been able to will myself to read it yet.

22. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

The Howl’s Moving Castle movie is one of my favourite movies of all time. I pretty much watch it once a month – that’s how much I love it. So I was naturally pretty excited to read the book. It’s vastly different from the movie, but wonderful in its own way.

23. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Read review here. Another book for my Modern American Literature class. I absolutely adored it and it was a pleasure to read.

24. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

I remember getting through this book incredibly fast. It’s very simplistic in its writing but that only adds to the charm of it. It’s a collection of short stories of immigrants – very engaging and enjoyable to read. One of Lahiri’s novels is also nominated for the Man Booker Prize this year.

25. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

A heartbreaking story that was executed wonderfully. I also enjoyed the movie starring Kristen Stewart.

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