Top 5 Books of 2017

I was a bit behind in reading this year. In total, I read 26 books, which is a good few less than I would like, and my TBR pile has grown an awful lot. Around ten of the books I read were published this year, and I wanted to share my top five.

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

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“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.” 

This book is incredible, and Starr is such a wonderful, important character. The book deals with being black in America in our current socio-political climate, through the eyes of a sixteen year old girl. After first reading this, I felt drawn to compare it to the To Kill A Mockingbird of our generation, but that sells the story and author way too short. This is far more important, given that this is a story that deals with racism told by a black voice, through a black voice. I would recommend this to anyone on either side of the Black Lives Matter movement. This book is big, and I’m so excited for the movie.

Hold Back The Stars – Katie Khan 

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Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left. 
They are alone together. Drifting in space. 

This is a high concept romance novel set in the future. It’s particularly interesting to read as it’s the author’s debut novel, and she has previously worked on film, which sort of comes across in the writing and world building of the novel. Romance isn’t usually my thing unless it’s a subplot, but I really came to care for the characters in this book, and it was an original and beautiful story.

Traitor To The Throne – Alwyn Hamilton

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“My mother had raised me on a thousand stories of girls who were saved by the Djinn, princesses rescued from towers, peasant girls rescued from poverty.
Turned out, stories were just stories.
I was on my own.” 

I wrote a whole blog post about this book here. This is the second book in the Rebel of the Sands trilogy (final installment is out in February – yikes!) and I just love this world and the characters so much. It’s hard to not fall in love with all the characters for various reasons in these books, and harder to still to not fall in love with Alwyn Hamilton for creating them.

Pussy – Howard Jacobson

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“The Prince had no words and no interests and therein lay both his originality and – as could be attested to by the successes he had enjoyed on his travels – his popular appeal.”

I discussed this book in my Reading Challenge post here,  but this is a fantastical fairy-tale telling of Trump’s rise to power which encapsulates the bewilderment, frustration and defeat felt by many, whilst making the reader laugh, if not smirk, the whole time.

Tower of Dawn – Sarah J Maas

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“She would have an adventure. For herself. This one time. She would see her homeland, and smell it and breathe it in. See it from high above, see it racing as fast as the wind. She owed herself that much.”

I thoroughly enjoy all of Sarah J Maas’ work, though I’m not blind to some of the awkwardness or issues within her writing, but this was somehow refreshing. This is the sixth installment in the Throne Of Glass series, but takes place in the Southern Continent and runs along the same timeline as the fifth book. I won’t say too much as I don’t want to risk any spoilers for people not up to date with the series, but it’s always fun meeting new (and old) characters and discovering new places.

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Ten Most Listened To Albums of 2017

2017 was a weird year for me musically. Whilst I’ve always had a soft-spot for pop music, it would not normally feature so heavily in my most played. Pop has been having a real moment this year though, and my old favourite genres have started to feel a bit repetitive and yawn-inducing. The albums I’ve listened to most this year are not all pop, and they are not all albums that have been released this year, and this list is not exhaustive of everything I’ve been listening to, but here are (probably) my top ten (below the cut)

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The Thoughtful Ferret Reading Challenge 2017

At the beginning of the year, I set myself the following reading challenge and have collected my results below:

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A book you’ve never read but have watched the film/TV adaptation of more than once:

Drive – James Sallis (2005)

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“Life sends us messages all the time – then sits around laughing over how we’re not gonna be able to figure them out.”

I’m no film buff, but in my opinion, Drive was a cinematic masterpiece with one of the most iconic and recognisable soundtracks of the last decade. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve seen this movie and this year I finally got around to reading the book. It was the sort of experience where, after finishing the book, I think I preferred the movie at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I preferred the book. I was a bit shocked, but also not at all shocked, to realise that Irene had been whitewashed in the movie, and, from various articles and interviews I’ve seen, this seems to be down to white men’s subconscious need to protect white women over Latina women. So, there’s that. But that’s the movie, and overall, this was a really fun read.

And let’s just all enjoy this beaut before we go on:

A book you last read over five years ago:

Children of the Dust – Louise Lawrence (1985)

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“She had to remember it…with all her senses she had to remember it, all the scents and sights of a world she might never see again.”

I think I first read this when I was in year 7 or 8, so around 2012. It always stuck with me, and I read it again around seven years ago. A young adult novel based around the effects of nuclear warfare, this sort of seemed pertinent to read again now. It’s a fairly easy read, given the subject matter, but so enjoyable. It is written beautifully, and there’s a lot to unpack in various areas. Your heart will break for the characters, from very early on, but I would recommend this book to anyone, regardless of age.

A book published the year you were born:

Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman (1990)

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“DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.”

Good Omens was a weird one for me. As it’s a few months since I read it, sometimes I remember it fondly, and other times I feel I did not enjoy it at all. Overall, I think, this was a fun read, and my first experience of Neil Gaiman, but I thought it came across a little dated, naturally. There were parts I laughed at, and I enjoyed the overarching story, but I found it a bit of a droll read at times. It’s always fun and games when Death shows up though.

Purchased from a charity shop:

Pussy – Howard Jacobson (2017)

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‘Pique is a quality not to be underestimated in the making of fools and tyrants.’
‘And which do you think he will be?’
‘The mistake is to think it has to be one or the other.’

I managed to pick this up for £1 which was a bargain. It was so fun. It’s a satirised fairy-tale telling of Trump’s rise to power, and whilst I’ve seen critics point out that it’s hard to make it work as a parody when Trump’s ridiculousness takes him beyond parody, it’s still fun to read.

A book in a genre you wouldn’t usually read:

For Your Eyes Only (James Bond #8) – Ian Fleming (1962)

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No, it would not be a beaver. They always move in pairs. And yet perhaps it might be a beaver.

Uuuugh. This was such a tricky book to choose because there’s so few genres I wouldn’t read from. I settled on spy novels because it’s rare they appeal to me, and James Bond specifically because there’s so many reasons I would never really pick one up. This is one of the short story books, and honestly the only thing that made it bearable was having fun underlining all the xenophobic/racist/sexist lines. My favourite part was probably when Bond got all fake deep in For Your Eyes Only or just Colombo in Risico.

A book you’ve judged by its cover:

One Of Us Is Lying – Karen M McManus (2017)

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“I guess we’re almost friends now, or as friendly as you can get when you’re not one hundred percent sure the other person isn’t framing you for murder.” 

I have a real soft spot for teen novels with ‘lying’ or ‘liars’ in the name. Don’t ask me why because I really don’t know. I saw the cover of this and bought it immediately because it screamed The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars – and it delivered. It also had pretty red page edges. It is what it is, just a really fun teen murder mystery with a twist.

On Bryan Cranston and being tired.

In case you missed it, last night Bryan Cranston had some choice words to say about the Weinstein/Spacey scandals. Essentially, he stated that in the future, there is room for forgiveness for them. He called for us to “be the bigger person”.

CW: sexual assault mentions

Bryan Cranston is not a bad man, to my knowledge. But he is a privileged man. He is a rich man. He is a white man. He is a man. These things have a tendency to make people ignorant to the struggles of others; to be self-congratulatory and “logical”, when all they are really doing is attempting to look like the smarter person whilst forgetting one very important thing: you cannot be entirely logical when ignoring the emotions and lived experiences of other people. We are human, we are not math problems.

I have seen and been a part of a lot of discourse since these scandals started to break, and I have read horrific beliefs and comments regarding sexual assault. I have read things that were intended to make me feel unsafe. But it took Bryan’s “kind on the surface” comments to upset me to the point of tears, to make me realise just how tired I am.

The thing is, I understand that his comments were coming from a good place, but they’re comments outside of his own experience. They are unnecessary. By choosing the words ‘bigger person’, he invalidated a wide range of peoples’ wide range of emotions. Wanting these men to rot, wanting their careers to be over, wanting to never see their faces again – none of this makes us small people, or bad people. We live with the daily effects of what men like that have done to us. Why is it our responsibility to be the bigger person? Whenever someone is racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic – you name it – the target, the victim of the hate is always called on to be the bigger person. The minority always has to prove themselves by being the bigger person. It’s just another way to silence people and I’m over it.

Ultimately, Bryan, you do not get to decide whether or not these men are ever forgiven, whether their careers can be saved. That is the choice of their victims. To take those choices from the victims at any point is to remove the voice of the victim. That forced silencing is what led us to this situation in the first place.

Forgiveness should not even be a part of the narrative right now. These men have preyed on vulnerable people for years. To a point where it has become the status quo. The goal of airing this publicly, of getting these disgusting men fired from their jobs, is to reshape Hollywood, to try and repair the damage, and to make it a safer space for generations of actors moving forward. We need these men to know that we will no longer stand by while they abuse their power. Sexual assault changes and can ruin the survivors’ lives. We need the abusers to start facing the same repercussions. Hollywood HAS to change, and hopefully if we can change Hollywood, the rest of the world will start to follow suit. Inviting the idea of forgiveness into the narrative derails everything. Let’s make rapists afraid again.

Do you know the other reason I’m so fucking over it all though? These straight white men talk, and the spout their oh-so-logical holier-than-thou bullshit, and I can pick it apart, and I can discuss why they’re wrong, and yet there’s just this part of me that feels the need to defend them. “Oh, I *know* Bryan Cranston was coming from a good place but”, “Oh, I know that really he meant this and he did contextualise it in this way…” – I’m so sick of feeling the need to minimise my own anger and frustration and sadness and this vast range of emotions I feel as a woman and as a victim, just to protect these rich men’s feelings, just to prevent their fans coming at me and making me feel even shittier than I already do. I’m sick of seeing these men that I respect, that seem to be on our side, come out and invalidate our experiences. I’m sick of these people thinking they have any right to tell victims of sexual assault how to feel.

I’m just really fucking tired y’all.

Dook In Peace Katniss 

The weekend before last took a shocking and heart-breaking turn when we had to have our little sweet creature Katniss put to sleep. She’d had a few health problems, but it hadn’t seemed like anything too imminently serious, and she was due to have another few tests soon. I’d heard several warning stories about how ferrets can take very dramatic turns for the worse, and unfortunately this was the case here. 

On the Friday she’d been her usual playful, greedy, intrusive self. On the Saturday evening, around midnight we noticed she was very lethargic and walking like she was drunk. I checked on her at 7am on Sunday morning and she had enough energy to come over to me and grab on to my arm, but could barely move otherwise.

We rushed her to the vet, where they told us her blood sugar was dangerously low. We left her with them for several hours where they tried to stabilise her and ran some tests, but by lunch time, it seemed that her body did not want to fight, and further scans had suggested she had severe insulinoma and adrenal. After a lot of discussion of our options, and a lot of tears and cuddles, it was clear that the best option for her was to put her to sleep that day. 

She had the injections wrapped in her favourite blanket, with me stroking her head and Dean holding her paw. She went peacefully and surrounded by love and I think that’s the best we can hope for any of our pets.

I think she knew that morning what was happening. She hung on to me and just wanted to be held, she nuzzled into Dean’s chin when he was upset, she kept looking at us and making sure we were close when we were at the vets. I think that, even though she passed young, she was happy to the end.

I will always miss her. She and Haymitch were my first ferrets, and even though they are all incredibly special, she was the quickest to bond with us, and was the baby of the group, even when Finnick came and she wasn’t the youngest anymore. She loved a cwtch and she was a very special kind of derpy. She was first ferret I have lost. 

I will remember her so fondly. I will remember how she was unwanted, and I gave her a home, and filled it with toys and silliness and food and love and family. I will remember how happy she was, and how much she loved me; how she would follow me around the house, how she would nibble our ears, how she learned to gesture with her head like a person, how she brought so much joy into my life when at times I didn’t have much else of my own, how she always seemed to know when I was sad, how she just really loved having things thrown at her, how she was so perfect even Alaska The Anxious Cat loved her (on some level at least).


You were the most wonderful first ferret. Dook In Peace Katniss, I love you. 🌈 ♥

I Have Had A Man

I wrote this early this year whilst I was processing a lot of the issues I realised I’d repressed on some level or never addressed. I had no intention of sharing it, but after the Me Too movement this week, I kept coming back to it. I’m an anxious mess about it, but I’m sharing it.

CW/TW: sexual assault, sexism, NSFW below the cut.

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The Hunger Ferrets

Hello!

It’s really been a while since I’ve updated this blog. I’ve worked on a few different ideas and posts over the last few months, but life has been so hectic, I never got around to completing anything to any sort of post-able standard.

With ferrets being a massive part of my life, and being a title theme of this blog, I’d make a post introducing you to my little business*. A summary of my ferret journey and lots of ferret pictures below the cut!

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I just finished Traitor To The Throne and have a lot of feelings.

‘Welcome to the Rebellion,’ I said. ‘You get used to it.’

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NB: I have kept this as spoiler-free as possible but there are winks to some plotlines. Proceed at your own risk.

            As mentioned in a previous post, I went against common proverb and fell in love with the cover and title of Rebel of the Sands back when it came out in early 2016. Fortunately, I fell in love with the story too.

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The second instalment of Alwyn Hamilton’s trilogy was released this month and my love for this world has only continued to grow. Aside from the fact that the cover art is some of the most stunning I’ve seen, the story unfolds beautifully. Told mostly in the first person from our female lead, Amani – a desert girl who’s as skilled with a gun as she is stubborn – in Traitor To The Throne, we are also treated to a few short chapters interspersed through the book from a third person narrative. These provide depth and detail to the lore and legend of this world. It is this lore and legend that truly make this world so alive and magical. Whilst we are slowly introduced to this world in Rebel of the Sands, Traitor to the Throne is filled with much deeper history, varied characters and far more political intrigue; as Amani learns more about her world, so do we. Plots thicken and twist, myth becomes reality, and legends are born.

One of my favourite things about this book is the constant narrative of “history is written by the winners” – we pick up pieces of history as we go along, but quite often there is more to the story than common story-telling would have us believe. This theme is consistently brought up throughout the past and present, and in what Amani knows will happen to their own stories in the future depending on whether they win or lose, live or die.

The cast of characters is full of lovable misfits, strong women, flawed but beautiful people and dimensional enemies. From a long lost aunt, to the spoilt Sultim, to the Rebel Prince, these stories are full of characters whose every intention is thought out in depth by Hamilton; no one seems to act out of character, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be full of surprises. In Traitor to the Throne, we see some of our old favourites from Rebel of the Sands, of course, such as Jin – Amani’s wonderful, if somewhat flighty, love interest – and Shazad – the general’s beautiful daughter and resilient rebel soldier who becomes Amani’s closest friend – along with many new faces. But amongst these new faces, we also come across some old and surprising faces, as Amani finds enemies in strange places, and allies in places stranger still.

I don’t think I’ve found a world quite so intriguing, captivating and magical since The Oracle Prophecies by Catherine Fisher (my forever favourite). But whilst Alwyn Hamilton’s books are reminiscent of this trilogy (deserts, corrupt institutions, mythical beings and rebellion), Hamilton has created a fantasy world all of her own, so timeless and alive and full of culture; she invites you in and you instantly feel at home (the kind of ‘home’ that gets your heart racing).

I honestly cannot recommend these books highly enough. If you like fantasy, mythology, dimensional characters, strong women, politics, deserts, rebellions or even romance, go out and buy these books.

Just don’t blame me when you finish Traitor and want to cry because you cannot wait another year for the next instalment.

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P.S. I matched my nails to the cover art.

2017 Reading Challenge!

I’ve written my own mini reading challenge for 2017! It’s much shorter than the one I did for 2016, to give myself a bit more freedom, especially given I still plan to start my girly book club. 

Feel free to join along and update me on what you read!

Hope you all had a great New Year’s Eve and have and wonderful 2017 x

2016 Reading Challenge

 

Deep breath guys, we’re nearly at the end of 2016!

For all the unpleasant things that have happened this year, several good things happened in my life; I got another ferret, got my degree (2.1 baby) and reignited my passion for reading (which had suffered somewhat during said degree).

At the start of the year, I found this 2016 Reading Challenge, saved it to my phone, and started it in June, as soon as I’d finished my exams. Whilst I’d read a few other books in the first half of the year, I couldn’t commit to a challenge whilst finishing my course. I was initially posting my progress on my instagram, but failed to keep up with the posts after a short social media break, so decided to collect them all here instead.

In short, welcome to my run down of my attempt at the 2016 Reading Challenge!

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A Book Published This Year:

REBEL OF THE SANDS – ALWYN HAMILTON

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“Tell me how you want your story to go, he says, and we’ll write it straight across the sand”

We all know what they say about books and their covers, but I totally bought this because I loved the cover art (shiny) and title (‘rebel’ and ‘sand’ in one book title, sign me up!) but this book did not disappoint and was totally up my street; YA fantasy with a female protagonist set in and around a desert – I am already excited to re-read it before the second book comes out in February.

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A Book You Can Finish In A Day:

IN A DARK DARK WOOD – RUTH WARE

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“There was something strangely naked about it, like we were on a stage set, playing our parts to an audience of eyes out there in the wood.”

I raced through this, clearly! Really fun little mystery/thriller without being super heavy or emotionally draining. Apparently intended to be adapted into a movie by Reese Witherspoon, which I look very forward to seeing.

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A Book You’ve Been Meaning To Read:

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S – TRUMAN CAPOTE

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Really enjoyed reading this, and looking forward to re-reading it with a more critical eye having thought about it a lot after finishing it the first time. Not what I was expecting, but definitely in a good way. I’ve never watched the film properly and having read lists of differences between the book and film, I’m hesitant to, and am thinking of starting a list of books that deserve remakes of their adaptations – but that’s a discussion for another time!

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A Book Recommended By Your Local Librarian or Bookseller:

THE WEIRDSTONE OF BRISINGAMEN – ALAN GARNER

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(Photo from Goodreads)

Recommended by staff at Waterstones, Swansea. This children’s fantasy novel made me feel totally nostalgic even though I’d never read it before. A wonderful tale of two children plunged into a fantasy world that they’d only before known in stories, myth and legend, it is definitely a must read in children’s literature.

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A Book You Should Have Read In School:

OF MICE AND MEN – JOHN STEINBECK

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(Photo from Goodreads)

Having never had this as a set text, it took me until the shocking age of 26 to finally read this, and I’m so glad I did. There’s nothing I can really say about this that hasn’t been said before, other than I wish I had read it back in school.

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A Book Chosen For You By Your Spouse, Partner, Sibling, Child or BFF :

THE OTHER HAND – CHRIS CLEAVE

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(Photo Credit: @jaynestockton)

My sister recommended this book to me after reading it herself. This is a beautiful story about two different women – a Nigerian asylum-seeker and a British magazine editor and mother – and how their lives cross. The way the story unfolds is intriguing and emotional and carries an important critique of the treatment of refugees in Britain.

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A Book Published Before You Were Born:

THE GREAT GATSBY – F SCOTT FITZGERALD

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With references to this book wildly scattered throughout an awful lot of media I’ve watched or read, it seemed high time to give it a go. Like Breakfast At Tiffany’s, this is a book I’d like to go back and read with a more critical eye, but the first time around I enjoyed it for what it was, though felt a small disconnect between myself and the narrative (this of course is not a criticism and merely an acknowledgement, and likely due to it having been written by a man in the 1920s, with the audience certainly not intended to be a girl in her 20s in the 2010s)

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A Book That Was Banned At Some Point:

PEYTON PLACE – GRACE METALIOUS

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I have a lot to say about this book and what I’ve read about the author and the proceeding film and television adaptations, but I’ll be saving that until I have re-read it. Peyton Place is a book about small-town scandal that was released in the 1950s and shocked America, causing it’s banning from several places, specifically by the Canadian Government from 1956-1958. More than the scandal, however, this book is a wonderful piece of feminist fiction, that deals with women coming to terms with themselves, including in terms of privilege and sexuality.

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A Book You Previously Abandoned:

SABRIEL – GARTH NIX

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(I had to get my cat, Siberia, in this photo because I pictured Mogget as her the entire time)

I started this book in 2014 or 2015, and could never get into it, but having seen it spoken of so highly by people in my personal life and by many book blogs, I knew I had to give it another go. It still took me a while to get through, but when the talking cat showed up, I was a little bit more sold! It’s an odd book; for the first half the writing felt somewhat stunted and awkward, and the story seemed to trudge along. By the end of the book it picked up and I was enjoying it a lot more, with the writing feeling far more smooth; enough so that I’ve ordered the sequels, and am pretty excited to read them.

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A Book You Own But Have Never Read:

STAR WARS: RED HARVEST – JOE SCHREIBER

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A friend bought me this book for Christmas about five years ago, and it’s been in my TBR pile ever since. I don’t know why it took me so long to read because it’s a freaking Star Wars zombie story set during the Old Republic era (if I was to have a favourite Star Wars era, it would be the Old Republic) with a female protagonist! Easy to read, fast-paced and exciting, I’d recommend it to any other fans of Star Wars and/or zombies.

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A Book That Intimidates You:

FRANKENSTEIN – MARY SHELLEY

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(Photo from Goodreads)

This may seem like an odd choice for an intimidating book, but it was the set book for my main class the first time I attempted a degree back in 2008. I never finished it then, having dropped out, and have since had a bit of a mental block towards it, given it would always remind me of a time in my life that was somewhat unpleasant. But I completed a different degree this year, so I figured it was time. What was particularly interesting about finally reading this was how different the story is compared to how I’ve seen it represented in a lot of current media.

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A Book You’ve Read At Least Once:

LULLABY – CHUCK PALAHNIUK

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(Photo from Goodreads)

“Big brother isn’t watching. He’s singing and dancing. He’s pulling rabbits out of a hat”

This was a tricky choice, given how much I like to re-read stuff (there are books I read at the start of this year which I’ve already re-read), but Palahniuk is definitely one of my favourite authors, and given the hype about – and the money I spent on – the kickstarter for the movie earlier this year, it had to be this one. This novel was written during a particularly dark time in Chuck’s life and deals with some heavy themes – the first time I read it, I remember it getting in my head enough that it played with my anxiety, in a great way.

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There are plenty of other brilliant books I’ve read this year too, but I feel it necessary to give a big mention to Sarah J Maas, whose books I’d never read until this year. My father bought me Throne Of Glass for Christmas last year, and I started it on New Year’s Day 2016. I raced through it, thinking it was a wonderful trashy Hunger Games-esque romantic novel set in an interesting fantasy world. Little did I know that the trashy romance was more of a prelude to a brilliant story full of twists, politics, fantasy and a lot of crying. I have devoured all of her books at least once this year (the Throne of Glass series and the A Court Of Thorns and Roses series), and have forced them on several friends.

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(My Sarah J Maas shelf. Define: ‘obsessed’)

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Anyway, that’s it from me for 2016. Did you complete any book challenges this year or read anything worth raving about? Let me know!

Hope you all have a great New Year’s Eve and wonderful 2017. Happy reading!