Bookish Recap-2016

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Well! That was a thing. Overall, reading wise, 2016 was a good year. Personally there were ups and downs which prevented me from blogging the way I wanted to. I’m still figuring out the ins and outs of blogging and this year I hope that I can be more consistent.

Obviously we have to review my favorite books of the past year and what my reading goals are this year.

According to the Goodread’s challenge I read 34 books (the same amount as 2015). But I also re-read a lot of books, which Goodreads doesn’t take into consideration. And so according to my calculations (yay for doing bookish-recaps every month), I read 37 books. I didn’t review all of them for the blog, but that’s ok. Again, that’s something I want to work on.

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My average rating according to Goodreads was a 3.7 which is pretty high, and also cements the fact it was a good reading year. You would think that I would have had a hard time picking my top five, but it was quite easy.

My top 5 books for 2016 (in no particular order; click the title for a link to my reviews):

The Martian (Andy Weir)

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Do I really need to say anything more about this book? It ended up on three of my bookish lists this year, and I also re-read it in December. Reading a book twice in one year is a new record for me. If you’re not quite sure why I’m in love with this story of resilience and team work, check out my review.

The Raven Boys (Maggie Stiefvater)

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This book ended up on two of my bookish lists, and I’ve recommended this book to numerous people off line. If you love fantasy I think this is a must read. While Stiefvater’s writing style isn’t for everyone, I adore it and the characters just sealed the deal for me. I found myself able to relate to each one and learning more about myself through reading the book. It’s rare that a book does that for me, and I’m so grateful that I finally caved in and gave this book and series a chance. I’m currently finishing up this series. If I die, put The Raven Cycle as the cause of death.

Nevernight (Jay Kristoff)

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MIA!! This is how you do assassins! I loved the mix of Italian Renaissance and Roman Empire. The world building was fantastic, and nothing ever felt out of place. Mia was by no means a good person, although she had good in her. The book is filled with questionable content and in a way, it’s an uncomfortable book. The bad is portrayed as bad, but the big question is, “is it truly bad if it’s done for good reasons?” and that’s something the reader has to decide for themselves. Mia, despite her flaws and questionable choices was a character I could get behind. Needless to say, I’m excited for the next books in the series.

I Am Malala (Malala Yousafzai)

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Speaking of hard books…I am Malala was a hard book to read in parts. It was eye opening read. I think that this is the most important book I’ve read this year. This book gives great insight to what is going on in the world and why we must help young women world wide get a good education. I was surprised to find that this book is as much about Malala as it is her father. While disturbing in parts, this book is also one of hope and resilience. If you want to learn more about current events and hear Malala’s story from the start and source,  I strongly recommend you read this.

And finally, Fascinate by Sally Hogshead.

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Although I didn’t review this book on the blog, I did review it on Goodreads. I really loved the psychology in this book. For those of you that have no interest in branding or starting your own business I think this book is a great read, just because it makes one more aware of how the media uses different methods to influence our behavior. It’s an eye opening book, and it’s a lot of fun. For those of you that are interested in the business side of thing, this is a great book. I recently added it to my personal library and am looking forward to reading it again.

 

As for my reading goals this year, I set my Goodreads challenge to 13 books. Last year I set it at 16 so that I wouldn’t feel too pressured, but I’d be encouraged to read. It worked wonderfully! I’m setting it lower than the past year because I’m doing a personal challenge to read mostly big books (400+ pages). Some of the books I’ll be tackling are filled with heavy world building and are over 700 pages. With school, writing, and work it’ll take me time to get though those monsters! I’ll also be focusing on more diverse reads too. Hopefully with these goals I’ll wind up getting through a lot of books on my TBR pile.

I’m keeping my goals simple, but I’ll have fun achieving them. What books are you looking forward to reading this year? Got any bookish goals for the upcoming year?

Bookish Recap: Top 5 Faves…So Far

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So we’re about half way through the month that is the half way point through the year. My birthday is this week so to celebrate I’ve decided to share my top five favorites of the year so far. This actually wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I’ve reviewed all of these books and included links to the reviews if you missed them and want to check out my more in depth thoughts.

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The Martian (Andy Weir): Does it surprise anyone that I listed this book first? It’s the one I talk the most about, I don’t even know why I’m pretending like this wouldn’t have been on the list. I just put it on another list too. You can tell I love this one! I loved the humor and the resilience that Mark had. The nerd in me rejoiced at the behind the scenes look at NASA and all the science not related to space. I am a die hard fan of survival stories and this one came with science. I was sobbing at the end and I think the only other book I cried so hard at was The Hobbit. You can read my review of it (The Martian, not The Hobbit) here. I promise I don’t talk about potatoes…much.

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The Raven Boys (Maggie Stiefvater): This book came as a surprise for me. I was expecting it to be kind of meh, over-hyped, and not my cup of tea despite the lovely writing style. I was so wrong. I am so, so glad that I was so, so wrong. I deeply connected to each of the main characters and was awed by the beautifully executed plot. The world building blew me away. I set aside reading the series so that I could buy all of it. Now I just need to prepare myself for major feels. The Raven Boys is one of my most recent reviews and you can check it out here.

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We Awaken (Calista Lynne): Asexual representation? Check. Cute girls loving girls? Check. Magic? Check. Lovely world building? Check! I was stoked when I was offered the opportunity to read and review this book, but I was also anxious. As someone who has asexual friends and who is on the asexual spectrum herself, I was pretty worried about how accurate the representation would be. I didn’t have a thing to worry about and really enjoyed the organic romance that developed between the characters. I also loved Lynne’s writing style. Overall, We Awaken struck me as an incredibly elegant book.

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I Funny (James Patterson): Speaking of diversity…I Funny was a wonderful and incredibly quick read. I really loved the humor in it, and adored how Jamie defined himself outside of his disability-something that is so hard for us to do. While I couldn’t relate to the situation Jamie was in, I could relate to the bullying, the struggles of middle school and the need to define yourself outside of your disability. This is the sort of book I wish I had when I was in elementary and middle school, and I’m so glad that the I Funny series is available for today’s generation. You can read my review here.

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I am Malala (Malala Yousafzai): This was a really hard book to read at times because of the struggles Malala, her family, and her friends went through. It’s hard to believe that this stuff actually happened because America is seemingly so far removed from these issues. That was one thing I loved about this book. Through honesty and passion Malala shows that education can be improved everywhere and that it’s everyone’s business that we educate everyone in the upcoming generations. No matter their gender. This was hard to review due to the fact that it was so powerful for me and I needed time to sit on it, but I managed it!

So, have you got any favorites of the year so far? Any way you could narrow your list down to just five? I’d love to hear what books you’d put on your list as I’m always (needlessly, my TBR pile is massive) on the look out for new books to read!

Book Review: The Raven Boys

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“She wasn’t interested in telling people’s futures. She was interested in going out and finding her own.” ~The Raven Boys

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Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA paranormal/mystery romance

Summary: Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

My Opinion: I totally blame the read along by buttermybooks  for getting me to finally read this book. But note in that very friendly blame is an incredible amount of gratitude. I heard someone say once that you don’t pick books, they pick you. You’ll read the right books at the right time. This was definitely the case for me with The Raven Boys. The diversity and depth of characters, the world building and the mythology completely sold me on this book and series. 5 stars!

I’ll start off by getting my one complaint out of the way. Blue. Without her you don’t have a story. Blue is the trigger for everything just about. Yet I feel like I knew very little about her. From the summary I was under the impression that Blue was the main character and so we’d see a lot of her. We saw a good bit of her, and I really enjoyed what I did read about her, but I felt like I knew Gansey and Adam simply because so much time was spent on them. I’m hoping this will improve as the series goes on, but that was the one thing that got on my nerves.

Despite that I loved this book. I learned a lot about myself in this book in a way. Not only does it have a plethora of Welsh mythology (my family is originally from that area, a few generations back mind you, but still, I felt connected to my history), it also touches on a lot of raw human emotions and situations that I could relate to. I found myself wanting to pack up and look for my own Cabeswater or find a magical portal and move into the world of the Raven Boys.

In my favorite books I’ve been able to see a large part of myself in the main character, and only really in them. Yet in The Raven Boys, I saw a part of myself in Blue, Gansey, Noah, Adam, and Ronan. Together the elements of them all added up to me in a way. It made the book a very personal experience because I could deeply and equally connect to the five main characters. That made certain parts of the book hard to read for sure, but made the book so worth it. While I wasn’t able to relate as deeply to the minor characters, they were still fleshed out and interesting. This speaks to Stiefvater’s skills as a writer, to be able to flesh out each character to the point where readers can deeply connect to each one.

I really do think Stiefvater is my new favorite author. Her style reminds me a bit of the writing found in The Great Gatsby (which is one of my favorite books fite me). Lyrical, somewhat repetitive in parts to get the deeper meanings across, and very natural. Something about the writing style made the book incredibly emotional, even in the slower parts. Even if Stiefvater wrote in loving detail how Adam made a sandwich and spent 12 pages on it I would enjoy every single one of those pages (she doesn’t but seriously I’d read it). I’d also probably know a whole heck of a lot about Adam. That’s just Stiefvater for you. Slips in things that you don’t think are important that lead to massive plot twists.

Kind of like the major plot twist that I’m not talking about because of spoilers. I had to put the book down for a bit to comprehend what I had just read when I came to that part. Yet that wasn’t the only plot twist and all twists were well done. Each twist used everything that was already previously explained. I never felt like these twists were out of the blue and never felt like I was cheated by them.

Ultimately you should read this book. Go read it. The characters are deeply interesting, the plot twists are actually twisty and the mystery is well done. If you like magic, epic quests, smart people sometimes doing stupid things/stupid people sometimes doing smart things, really freaking weird forests, and Welsh mythology you need to read this. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of all of those things, give this book a try.

TL;DR: The world building, character development, and beautiful writing style made this book one of my favorites of the year. It’s a beautiful book on so many levels and I really cannot recommend it highly enough.

Bookish Recap (April)

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Well during April I’ve spent most of my time studying for school (finals on the horizon ugh), and then adjusting to a new (but great) job. Throughout all of that adjusting I haven’t had a lot of time to read. But I did manage to read some.

As in one book. As in I finally read The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. It was a fantastic book and I really wasn’t expecting it to live up to the intense hype it had. But it really did.

But you can find out about that this Friday.

In the mean time I think that things are finally slowing down. I’m done with school, and I’ve gotten into the swing of things at work. I’ve been keeping a log of ideas I have for the blog, so expect some tweaks in the future. Personally I’m really looking forward to them! Despite the tweaks I’m still keeping the weekly Friday posts for now.

Although I only read one book this month that book made me incredibly happy and introduced me to a new author. The fact I read at all (and am reading a few other books on and off before I go to bed), is great. At least I’m not in a reading slump! And with things finally slowing down a bit I’ll have even more time to read.

I’m looking forward to it. April might not have been a huge reading month for me but I’ve got plenty of great books that I’m looking forward to reading in May (such as finishing The Raven Cycle).