What to read after something existential and deep…

Hello all! Hope you’re having a lovely Sunday and Happy Mother’s Day!

I don’t know about you, but after reading something heavy or deep, I always feel like I *deserve* to read something super light. So after my post yesterday, I decided to compile a list of things to read after you’re done delving into the existential and need to read take it easy:

  1. Weather reports– weather reports are safe, they will not hurt you and it’s always good to be prepared!

weather report

  1. YA contemporary– fun frivolity where the biggest stress is what to wear to the school prom- yes please!! But watch out for the ones where people die…

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  1. A frothy fantasy– not the kind where anyone gets hurt- but the semi-safe kind where they wander off in New Zealandesque landscapes for hours on end (if nothing else you can let your mind wander to “where are the hobbits”). Again, preferably with the emphasis on the main character’s dress sense.

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  1. The TV Guide– let’s face it when you’re done with all the heavy stuff, you’ll be reaching for the remote and may as well find something good…

radio times

  1. Those clickbait posts that begin “you won’t believe…”- and sure enough you won’t believe you stumbled on such crap by the end of it. (Although that example was taken from this awesome post of clickbait titles for classics)

clickbait books

And that’s it! Now I’d have also included kid’s books on this list- but we all know how existential books like Goodnight Moon can get… But as long as you can resist the urge to read too much into them, you should be safe…

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So what do you like to read after something heavy? Let me know in the comments!

My Top Ten Fantasy Books

I’m very excited about today’s post! A couple of days ago, I mentioned how Red Sister had the power of reminding me about why I had fallen in love with fantasy. And as I was doing the post, I realised I have never done a post about my favourite fantasy books.

Ever since being obsessed with Peter Pan as a child, I have always loved escaping to other worlds in books. And since these are *my* personal favourites, this post is about to get super nostalgic up in here 😉

Hobbit_cover
1. The Hobbit– although I will give an honorary mention to LOTR, this one was always my favourite of Tolkein’s work. More than that, it was my gateway drug for fantasy and the main reason why I love dragons #TeamSmaug

northern lights
2. His Dark Materials– this is another one I remember from childhood and it’s stayed with me over the years as one of the best series I have ever read.

sabriel
3. The Abhorsen Trilogy– ahh I cannot say how much I loved this book- I was obsessed with it in my teens and used to take it out the library over and over to reread it back to back. To my mind it’s the *perfect* dark fantasy and the best story about necromancy I have ever read.

the novice

4. Black Magicians Trilogy– so this is a funny one to include, because I didn’t initially like this series. I felt letdown by the first book and only continued because the last part picked up enough to have me intrigued about where it was going. I was so glad I con tinued though, because by the end of this series I had fallen in love with the characters and became so invested in the series that I was *wrecked* when it was all over. So yeah, definitely top ten material.

demon king

5. Seven Realms Series– I can’t actually think of another series with characters I’ve loved more. This series is nothing totally original, but man, does it get you with the *feels*.

daughter of smoke and bone

6. Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy– this is one of the very rare series I’ve rated 5* across the board- and for good reason! Call me a sucker for a good romance, this series had love interests I was actually routing for the whole way through. Add an incredibly clever storyline and utterly unique world-building and, *bobs your uncle*, you get one of the best series I’ve ever read.

carry on

7. Carry On– I absolutely adored this book. I wrote a post titled “ten reasons to read Carry On”- but to be honest, I could probably think of ten more! Not least because it is such a fun book that for a change doesn’t take itself too seriously. I love how it subtly pokes fun at the genre, whilst also delivering some the most emotional and interesting storylines to date! And speaking of funny books…

anansi boys

8. Anansi Boys– oh man do I love this book!! Yeah, I’m a Gaiman fan- and proud of it! This one is easily my favourite (though I won’t say no to anything he’s written to be honest)

mort nice edition

9. Discworld Series– come on- did anyone not see this coming? And for the record, my favourite to date is Mort.

NeverendingStory1997Edition

10. Neverending Story– this is the most recently read book on this list, but it *easily* made it onto this favourites list. One of the best books I read last year, it is self-aware, smart and very imaginative. Plus, it’s a book about books- and you know how much I adore those!

So I like to think there will be others to add to my list of fantasy favourites one day- and I can already think of some candidates from series I’ve not finished yet… but for now…

that's all folks

(actually can’t believe that I’ve never used that joke before)

How about you? What are your favourite fantasy books? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Books of 2016

Alrighty then- it’s finally time for my top ten of 2016!!! I’m really pleased to say competition for a spot on my top ten was really tough this year- I’ve read some incredible books- so much so that I felt the need to highlight my honorary picks yesterday in a post all of their own! Honestly, it got to the point in the year when I felt like I should stop reading good books so there would be less competition on this list!

For that reason this year’s list is special- these aren’t just great books- but books that are going to stay with me for years to come. I hope that some of them will do the same for you. Without further ado- here’s my top ten in ascending order:

(All reviews are linked to the pics)

10 monster calls.png

a_monster_calls

This is the only book on the list I didn’t review- but that was actually because my emotions were too fraught after reading to come up with anything coherent. What I will say now is that it was nothing short of beautiful– beautifully written, beautifully conceived and beautifully illustrated. It was quite simply, the perfect story. (For the record it gets *all the bananas* from me!)

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infidel

Such an important book to read– this book is only lower down on this list because, while brilliant, it is a heavy subject. That description of FGM at the start is not for the faint of heart!

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Red Rising Pierce Browns

This series blew me away. It’s bloodydamn brilliant!! Shout out to Kat and everyone else that told me to read this- so, so grateful!

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the martian

One of the best things to come out of this year has been my sudden interest in sci fi- I am so excited to read more in the coming years, but I feel like this was my gateway drug. Ever since I read it, I just kept going back to how perfect it was- sciencey terms and all! (Come on, it’s got Mark Watney!)

6 war and peace.png

war and peace

I can’t believe this was the year I finally read War and Peace! This tome has been on my tbr forever- but this year I felt spurred on to tackle it- and I’m so glad I did, because it turned out to be rewarding for all the right reasons: fantastic plot, realistic characters and thoughts that will make your head hurt! (In a good way 😉 )

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The_Golem_(Isaac_Bashevis_Singer_novel_-_cover_art)

And this is the point in the list where things get really personal. This may be a children’s story, but I was moved so much by this and found Singer’s version to be truly telling about some of the horrors faced by Jews during the pogroms.

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I read the second one of the series the other day and was just as blown away as with the first one. The imagery and symbolism here is simply magnificent. I love what this series is doing and adore Riggs unique style.

3-the-chosen

the chosen

This book didn’t just feel personal to me, it had a universal message– the central allegory of this story, of letting go of baseless hatred, is one I think we can all learn from. This story is bound to stay with me for quite some time!

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NeverendingStory1997Edition

A book about books, when it’s done well, has to be one of my favourite things ever! And this book is one of the finest I have ever read. Imaginative, philosophical and just plain beautiful- what more could one ask for! I am also eternally grateful that this book was recommended to me by Zezee– book blogging gets you the best recommendations!

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shadow of the wind

Yes, the top two books on here are books about books! This book is up there for me as one of the best books I have *ever* read. It is in the realm of the Book Thief and is without a doubt the best book I have read this year.

That was so fun to do! Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? And what was your favourite book of 2016? Let me know in the comments!

 

Books That Really Deserved To Be On My Top Ten For 2016

…But didn’t quite make it…

So this is breaking all the rules of having a top ten, but as I was writing my posts for my favourite books for 2016, I realised I had more honorary mentions than space on the list- so I thought I’d do a little teaser here, just to whet the appetite. Here are the books that really deserved to be on my top ten (and probably would have made it in any other year)…

 

 

Okay, now that’s done, better go and finish writing my top ten… wish me luck!

My Most Disappointing Reads of 2016

2017 is fast approaching and it looks like it’s time to start wrapping up 2016! But what would be an end of year wrap up be without discussing my most disappointing reads of 2016? These aren’t necessarily terrible books by any stretch of the imagination- but they are the books that I had high expectations for and that let me down. All the books I did reviews of will be linked to- enjoy! Without further ado- here are my worst books of 2016 in order of how much I disliked them:

10-miniaturist

miniaturist-978144725089001

While this had a pretty cover, what’s inside wasn’t up to much. This was made worse after I went to Amsterdam and saw the real dollhouse this was based on. It was just too pretty to have such a rubbish story attached to it!! Here’s my mini review for more details of why I wasn’t overly impressed.

9-queen-of-the-tearling

queen of the tearling

As you may or may not have seen in my review yesterday I was left pretty deflated after this one- frankly it bored me to tears- I did get to write a fun book trailer about it though!

8-paris-winter

paris winter

I don’t know why, but I thought this might be a really good romance. It wasn’t though. In my review I talked about how I wasn’t sure about the plot- and you know what? Months after writing that, I’m still not sure…

7-13-reasons-why

thirteen reasons why

I had a ton of issues with this book- but here’s a list of 13 problems that I had.

6-sin-eaters-daughter

sin-eaters-daughter

Really blah- I can’t remember much about it except that I didn’t get anything out of it.

5-moonstone

the-moonstone

I have only read one other book by Wilkie Collins and I loved it- sadly this book did not live up to that at all- with a plot I couldn’t follow and characters I didn’t relate to in the slightest, this book bored me senseless.

4-court-of-thorns-and-roses

court of thorns and roses

I have loved every single one of Maas’ books before this one- so I was incredibly disappointed with this one- you can read my review here to understand why this left me prickly. That said- I have good feeling about the sequel!

3-100-years-of-solitude

one hundred years of solitude

This book is one of those books that’s supposed to be one of the best books of all time… but it didn’t do it for me. Not at all. Here’s why…

2-this-is-not-a-love-story

this-is-not-a-love-story

I can’t say I wasn’t warned that this wouldn’t be romantic- but the true title should have been “This Is A Love Story About A Road”- a very specific road in North West London that the author seems obsessed with even though most of this book takes place in Amsterdam.

1-long-way-to-small-angry-planet

long-way-to-a-small-and-angry-planet

Oh gosh this one is easily my least favourite book I read this year. This book made me absolutely furious. I think this book has the longest rant I wrote this year! Plus it spawned a rant about why I hate moralising books.

So what do you think of this list? Agree? Disagree? And what were your worst books of 2016? Let me know in the comments!

 

Problems I have With Moralising Books

If you remember my book review yesterday, you will know I wasn’t too enamoured with A Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet. And one of the reasons I hated it was cos it was very moralising. I have often stated that I *hate* overt message books- but have never really gone into the whys and wherefores of what makes me feel like face palming so hard that I knock all memory of the book from my head…

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Now not all books that have messages will do this and not all books that do this will drive me mad- but here are my reasons why I can’t stand moralising books:

  1. Superbly stupid-non arguments. I’m not in primary school. You can’t just say “war is bad” and “don’t be mean”- I won’t just nod along robotically. I want nuance. I want to be treated like an adult and not patronised by what I just read. Heck- I want the complex arguments and analysis of Tolstoy (ok I don’t expect this from everything I read- especially not YA- just don’t make halfwit statements- ok??)
  2. If you’re going to debate something, put up a fight. No truism back and forths. If two characters are discussing, say, the existence of god- try not to make one of the characters a moron. It doesn’t make the mouthpiece for your agenda look good. It makes it look like you don’t have the confidence to thrash it out properly and it doesn’t sound believable. Unless you *want* your characters going on long tirades and probably getting quite heated, *leave this out of your book*!
  3. once-upon-a-time-finale-recap-featured-image-05102015-970x545The argument is just plain wrong. Sometimes views espoused in books are so objectionable or misleading that I just cannot get on board with them and it completely spoils my enjoyment of the book. For example, Once Upon A Time has put murder on a par with killing for self-defence before- not cool! A writer is entitled to present their views of course- but here’s the kicker- the reader is entitled to disagree and if your views are so flimsy they can be debunked in five seconds, you might want to rethink putting it in.
  4. Also, you might want to make sure the argument doesn’t undermine itself! Watch out if you accidentally undermine your feminist arguments with horrible characters too (I’m looking at you 99 Days). NB: Before anyone in the comments yells “99 daysthere are no objective truths”- just know that’s a subjective opinion, so as a moral relativist, you have to accept that other people are not moral relativists and that they are right in their own way (yeah that’s right, I just used moral relativism against the moral relativists…)
  5. When it’s invasive and gets in the way of the actual story. This often goes for any character giving a political speech and basically being used as a mouthpiece to preach- is this a religious text??? Keep it subtle!
  6. Similarly, try to keep on point. Honestly, if you’re writing a contemporary, why would you want to go off on some rant? Not gonna lie- this always makes me wince. Think very hard about whether this actually improves the story.
  7. If every single one of the messages is pessimistic– aka “people are shit, everyone’s evil, what’s the point of living”. And this is coming from a Hardy fan. Pessimism is best put into symbols and plot- not preachy characters or narrators.

So agree or disagree? What do you think about moralising books? Let me know in the comments!

“The Polemic of the Jews”

“I’ve got no interest in the polemic of the Jews,” a colleague once told me on reading The Finkler Question. And I wasn’t surprised. Because all my surprise had been used up years back at Uni when I asked a friend about her literature and religion course. I knew that there were a couple of Jewish books on it and was curious what people thought about them. “Oh no one but me bothered to read them,” she informed me. As to whether she liked them, she replied with a scrunched up face “It was very Jewish-y.”

Now as someone Jewish I get this *a lot*. And because of that I wasn’t sure I’d ever make this post. But after you were all so positive about representation the other day, I thought it would be fun to talk about my experience of Jews in books- and no, I’m not going to talk about Jews dying in the Holocaust or as the villain- but positive representations- which are few and far between. I managed to compile a list of 5:

daniel deronda1. Daniel Deronda– the first one on here is by someone who was not Jewish- but I guarantee this is one of the best books about Jews there is. It really gets to the heart of what it is to be Jewish- the complexities and the differences- not simply putting everyone in one bracket.

 

the chosen2. The Chosen– I absolutely loved this one in the way it personified the internal debates of Jewish identity through the two boys at the heart of the story. Review to come soon… (hopefully)

 

King-of-Schnorrers3. King of Schnorrer’s– this is the most “out there” book on the list. It’s effectively a comedy about the king of “scroungers”- and is super hilarious.

 

Invisible

The_Golem_(Isaac_Bashevis_Singer_novel_-_cover_art)4. The Golem– I mentioned this on my blog after I went to Prague- Singer’s version is undoubtedly one of the best books on the subject, making the fairytale real by transposing it on the history of pogroms. You can read more about it here (and in general you can’t really go wrong with an Isaac Bashevis Singer book- the Manor and the Estate in particularly are a grittier more realistic version of Fiddler on the Roof)

 

letters-to-auntie-fori5. Letters to Auntie Fori– this one’s non-fiction, but is really unusual in that it was written as a series of letters to Gilbert’s “adopted” Auntie Fori about her Jewish roots. Hence the title “Letters to Auntie Fori”. It traces the birth of the religion to the modern day ethnicity and makes for a surprisingly invigorating read.

 

Today I want to ask you about *your* culture- what books from your country or culture do you like the most? What books do you feel represent *you*? Anything goes!

(Hoping a skinhead somehow finds their way here and says Mein Kampf- sometimes I live for the random trolls… I have a weird sense of humour)