Failure And New Year Goals • #50BOOKSCHALLENGE

I started this year with a promise to myself; that I would read 50 books by the end of 2016 to rekindle my love of reading. I used to read so much as a kid and a teenager but school and college and work got in the way and my books grew dusty on the shelves.

The point of the challenge was to make sure I read regularly. Unfortunately, I didn’t reach my goal of 50 books. Instead, I read 36, with approximately 10 still to be finished. Although I’m usually very hard on myself, and failing a challenge like this could have really held me back and made me feel terrible, I’m actually quite pleased.

Thirty six books is still thirty five books more than I read last year. I read some really fantastic stories and some not so fantastic ones too, but ultimately, I read. Even if I had only read ten books, or twenty books, I still opened books this year and saw them through. That’s what’s important to me.

50bookschallenge

Although sometimes the challenge was stressful (for instance during very busy months), it re-introduced me to the joy of sitting down with a good book and a cup of tea and getting lost in a fantasy world.

I’ve decided that, instead of aiming for 50 books, 30 is a good goal to aim for. The reason I’ve done this is because I’m introducing a new challenge to the mix for 2017 – the #100kWordChallenge. If you’ve been following my writing journey, you’ll know I want to be a novelist. It has always been my dream, and after hitting 50k during 2016’s NaNoWriMo, I’m on my way to finishing my first book.

In 2017, I plan on finishing it with another 40k and to start the second book as well. Overall, I hope to write 100,000 words in 2017. To some, that might seem like a walk in the park, and to others it’s a mountain too steep to climb, but for me, it’s my new personal challenge and I’m determined to do myself proud.

Blessings and Happy New Year to all! Thanks for continuing to read my ramblings on here!

Books Read In September 2016 • #50BOOKSCHALLENGE

I’m quite behind on my reading for my #50bookschallenge but I’m trying to plan carefully so I reach my target. I need to read approximately 6 books per month until the end of the year, which is doable, but with my M.A.D. writing project and NaNoWriMo around the corner, it’s going to be a close one.

Injection 

50 books challenge I started reading the single issues of this graphic novel when it first came out but I never got around to finishing it until this month. Overall, I really enjoyed the book (especially the art and use of colour – Jordie Bellaire is the best in the business) but the story itself was honestly a little confusing at times.

I genuinely didn’t know what was going on some of the time, and not just when the information hadn’t been revealed yet. That was a pity, but it wasn’t a big thing for me as the graphic novel as a whole was very enjoyable. I’d absolutely recommend it to friends.

Lost Stars 

I’m a big Star Wars fan, and although some of the recent novels haven’t been well received, Lost Stars is the50 books challenge cream of the crop. It was an absolute emotional rollercoaster. I hate describing anything like that as it’s cheesy but this truly was. I found myself so engrossed in the characters and entirely invested in their lives and choices, some of which were unbelievably frustrating.

The different perspective on good people doing evil deeds was so interesting and the concept of honour was fascinating in terms of culture and indoctrination. The story really made me see how good people can justify evil in a believable way.

Watching Star Wars will never be the same again for me in terms of how I view the Empire. It’s easy to imagine all those who serve Palpatine as evil drones but I think The Force Awakens first cracked that theory  with Finn’s desertion and Lost Stars just blew it wide open so we can see the untruth of it. This book will take your black-and-white view of morality and turn it on its head completely.

The characters Ciena and Thane had great development throughout the course of the book and I for one would absolutely love to read more of their story.

Full review here.

Red Queen

50 books challenge There are some books that you kind of just need to pick up if you’re a YA fan, and Red Queen is one of those books. I’d heard a lot about it before I bought it but I was a little wary because overhyped books can so often be a disappointment. I needn’t have worried!

I really enjoyed it, despite the plot twist, which was not my cup of tea at all. This book was a little odd in that I found myself rooting for characters for a few chapters and then hating them the next and loving them the next, which is quite unusual for me. Generally when I hate a character I just flat out hate them and it takes something big to redeem them (a la Severus Snape), but I changed my opinion so often during this book I didn’t know what my feelings were.

I really liked the disparity between Reds and Silvers. I very much enjoy reading books where a privileged class and oppressed underbelly of society come to blows – it makes for good reading and often provides some good food for thought.

Although I hated the twist that happened with one of the main characters (mainly because it was too rushed, too forced and it just didn’t seem believable to me after the way the character behaved up until that point), the book was good and I’ve already started the second instalment, Glass Sword. Hopefully it’s just as good!

Book count: 33/50

Books Read In August 2016 • #50BOOKSCHALLENGE

August was a total disaster reading-wise unfortunately. I won’t feel too bad about it, however, as it was a lot to do with the fact that I was concentrating on writing my novel and I was also finishing up at my job (which I recently quit to focus on writing).

Nevertheless, I got two books read:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 

The Cursed Child I was waiting to get my hands on this book for a long time. Since I heard the script of The Cursed Child would be released to the public, I was totally ecstatic and couldn’t wait to get my paws on a new Potter story. Although I know a lot of people were disappointed with the story and the execution, I was happy enough after reading it. I went into it knowing that it was a play script and not a novel or a story in the traditional sense, so I think that allowed me to enjoy it a lot more.

The main problem I had was when I was imagining the events in my head; I constantly jumped back and forth between the actors who were cast in the play and the actors from the films. This was incredibly distracting for me, as in the past whenever I read a Potter book I imagined how everything happened very clearly. I know myself that the play will be an entirely different experience and easy to visualise because, well, it’ll unfold right before my eyes.

I enjoyed the book for what it is, but I can’t see myself re-reading it anytime soon.

Brain Fetish

Brain Fetish I picked up this graphic novel while browsing the artists’ alley at Dublin Comic Con. Truthfully, the only reason I picked it up was because of how awesome the cover is. Seriously, it’s so original I love it! I didn’t know going into it that it’s a book on relationship advice, but that was a pleasant surprise as I sat down to read it.

I really like the simple illustrations and there are a lot of Maus vibes (though Brain Fetish is far from the genius of Maus to be completely honest). I enjoyed the book and it’s something that I would go back to read if I was having trouble in my relationship. I’d also recommend it to friends who were going through the same trouble, as the advice is sound albeit from an anecdotal source. Overall, it’s a good graphic novel with plenty of interesting gems in it – an ideal read for someone looking to make some life changes.

Book count: 30/50 

What did you read in August? Let me know in the comments!

Books Read In June And July 2016 • #50BOOKSCHALLENGE

It’s safe to say I’ve been absolutely terrible at keeping up with my lists to track my reading progress, but I’ll get away with it by saying I’ve been too busy reading!

Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope 

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 21.40.23The art in this is absolutely stunning, but the story is fantastic as well so it was overall just almost perfect. It’s about a woman trying to save her children and her world from being destroyed by the forces of nature and a corrupt government which has given up. It has plenty to offer; a nasty villain, heart break, characters coming back from the brink and beautiful world building. It’s a must-read! Though it has a lot of sex and nakedness so top tip: don’t read it on the bus!

The Pro Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 21.44.58

I read this years ago when I worked in a comic book store but I hadn’t gone near it again until recently. It’s kind of a guilty pleasure graphic novel. It’s about a prostitute who also has superpowers and she struggles to juggle dealing with scumbag clients, her newborn child and being a part of a goody-two-shoes superhero group. Plenty of fun, but it’s explicit so be warned.

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 21.43.23Bitch Planet Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine 

This is a great female character-driven story about prisoners just trying to survive in an environment that’s trying to change everything about them, everything unique, everything that makes them who they are. If you like Orange is the New Black, this is a great book for you, plus there’s the bonus of no Piper Chapman!

They’re Not Like Us Volume 1: Black Holes For the Young Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 21.43.55

This is very similar to X-Men in that there’s a bunch of young people with superpowers in a house together with a powerful guy in charge. However, this story takes a much darker turn and explores some very cool (and disturbing) aspects of humanity and being “different”.

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 21.44.31Paper Girls Volume 1 

If you like Stranger Things on Netflix, then you’ll love Paper Girls. It has some gorgeous art and it follows the same kind of theme of aliens on earth as well as time travel. It’s charming, easy to read and easy to like. The main characters are newspaper delivery girls in the 80s who come across some pretty weird shit. A huge thumbs up from me!

This Savage Song Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 21.43.36

I got this in July’s Owlcrate and I immediately got stuck in because it’s written by V. E. Schwab, who is one of my favourite authors. It’s about monsters and humans and a truce that’s about to collapse and plunge the city into war once again. The two main characters are great and they don’t live up to their first impressions, they surpass them. Kate is surprising and August is a sweetheart, and I can’t wait until book two is released. The musical aspect to the story and the types of monster are so unique; I love to see that kind of ingenuity from writers.

Book count: 28/50

Books Read In May 2016 • #50BOOKSCHALLENGE

I find it incredibly handy to be able to download a graphic novel or comic straight to my tablet, but I can’t deny that I get totally carried away at times. It’s just so easy to click ‘buy’ without really thinking about how much I’m spending.

Needless to say, I spent quite a lot this month between graphic novels, comics and books. Do I regret it? Nope! But I do need to start reigning myself in when it comes to splurging on a whim.

This month, I read: 

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard 

Truthwitch Although it got off to a rocky start, I really really enjoyed this book. I’m glad I continued reading it until the end because chapters one and two were very dull and I put the book down countless times before committing to it.

The story was an interesting one and featured two strong female characters. It wasn’t particularly original in the grand sense of things, but there were aspects of it that were unique and made the story stand out amongst a bloated YA fantasy genre. I also don’t think I’ve loved a fictional character as much as I love Merik Nihar since Ron Weasley.

Earth One: Volume 1 Earth One

Although I have a history of disliking Superman stories, I really liked Earth One. The art in particular was
beautifully done, with several very different styles used throughout. It’s a series I’ll certainly continue reading, even though the ‘epic fight’ of the story was a little boring.

No story is perfect, however, and compared to other Superman stories I’ve endured in the past, this one is a winner for me.

Preacher Book 1 

PreacherThe TV series of the same name has hit the small screen (though I have yet to watch it!) and from what I’ve heard it seems the story is quite different from the source material. I really enjoyed volume 1 and I was surprised by the range of interesting characters (some more than others!) and the length of the book itself.

I will definitely read volume 2 as I’m dying to see more of the main trio, who have great chemistry with each other. The art itself isn’t usually my cup of tea but I got used to it throughout, and I can’t deny that it is extremely evocative. There are five more books for me to read in the series so it’ll certainly keep me occupied!

Keep It Vegan by Áine Carlin Keep It Vegan

I recently became a vegan and I’ve been on the lookout for some cookbooks that features simple recipes for everyday meals. Áine Carlin’s cookbook was a good read as I got to know her reasons for becoming a vegan and also her experience with the lifestyle change so far.

The recipes, too, were mostly simple and delicious looking. I have only sampled a few but there are plenty of dog ears in the book and I intend on cooking as many recipes as possible.

What have you been reading? Let me know in the comments!

Book count: 22/50

Books Read in April 2016 • #50bookschallenge

Another month, another disastrous attempt to stick to my #50bookschallenge. At the start of the year I wrote a post about my conflicted feelings with adding graphic novels to my book challenge count as they’re so much easier to read and the point of my challenge (when I first decided to do it) was to read actual novels, not comics, which I read plenty of.

I’m beginning to regret including them in my count.

I think that if I had stuck with just novels then I’d have far more under my belt at this stage. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read 18 books and it’s only the start of May now, but about half of those are graphic novels. I won’t get into certain types of books being seen as ‘better’ than others (because that’s a topic for another day), but I do feel a little down about it.

All of the books I read this month were graphic novels, which is the first time this has happened. Most months I’ll still have at least one book in the mix, but not this time. I don’t want this to become a habit because, although I love reading graphic novels and I’m going to continue keeping them in my count, I want to read more BOOK books and I have to keep that in mind for May.

I don’t like to include books I haven’t finished in my monthly count, even if I’m CLOSE to finishing. Until I get to that final page, it won’t appear in one of these lists. For this reason, I haven’t included The Fifth Wave, The Girl With All The Gifts and Eragon, all of which I’ve nearly finished. But they will be featured on a count post at SOME POINT by the end of the year. Hopefully.

This month, I read: 

Maus by Art Spiegelman 

An extraordinary book and one of my favourites ever, it follows the author and cartoonist, Art Spiegelman, as he interviews his father about his experience as a Polish jew and Holocaust survivor.

I’d heard a lot about this book for years before I finally picked it up. It was touted as one of the best graphic novels of all time and has a Pulitzer under its belt (which is well deserved, in my opinion). I really loved this and found it so easy to read.

One of the aspects of the storytelling that I found ingenius was using animals to represent the different sects – mice were jews, cats were Germans, frogs were French, dogs were Americans and so on.

It was absolutely tragic, especially so when I remembered that the little animals scurrying about the pages represented real people who were mercilessly slaughtered by the Nazis. I can’t recommend the book enough, but if you have even the slightest interest in world history (and to be honest, even if you don’t) you’ll find this wonderful little book fascinating.

The Walking Dead volumes 8 – 10 

I have a bit of a zombie and The Walking Dead obsession. At this stage, it’s pretty full blown and anything with a zombie in it is sure to be right up my street. This, plus easy access through my iPad’s Image app meant that I just couldn’t help but download several volumes.

They’re so easy to read and I just need to know what happens next in the story so I’ll keep going until I’ve downloaded all the volumes. I’ll probably have the entire series read by the end of the year and then I’ll start buying up the singles. Ah, comic appreciation… or obsession… is so expensive.

Although I’ve already spoken about the series at length, I do seriously recommend you give The Walking Dead a go. It’s a fantastic survival story and the art is so raw and emotive that it’s impossible not to get invested in the characters and the story. Two hearty thumbs up.

Book count: 18/50 

Books Read in March 2016 • #50bookschallenge

March was a disastrous month when it comes to reading actual novels. I’ve started a few of them but I don’t want to include those on my ‘books I’ve read’ list because I haven’t finished them. It’s cheating! So although I’m working my way through Eragon and Stan Lee’s memoir right now, they won’t be featured on this monthly list until I’ve gotten to the last page.

I read plenty of graphic novels though! Check out my list of reads below:

The Walking Dead volumes 3 – 7 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

I’m not exactly silent about my love for The Walking Dead TV show, so it’s no surprise that I binge-read several volumes this month, particularly in the lead up to the end of the season (although because my fury at that finale is still raw I won’t even go there).

I’m really loving the story and the characters, and I’ve finally gotten used to the faster pace in comparison to the show. It was difficult to get used to at first, but now I can appreciate the comics for what they are as a separate thing altogether.

I mentioned before that I met the artist, Charlie Adlard, at Walker Stalker Con in London recently and got a zombified version of me drawn on the cover of issue #150. Although I’m not there in the comics yet, it’s still an awesome thing to have seeing as I know there’s no chance that I’m quitting on this series. Seven volumes in and I’m in it for the long haul!

The fact I read so many volumes of TWD this month speaks for itself just how much I’m loving the series. I can’t recommend these comics enough so if you’re even remotely interested in starting then you absolutely should.

Books read in March

The New Hunger by Isaac Marion

I watched Warm Bodies in low lighting while I was on a plane to China a couple of years ago (I didn’t cop on until the final few scenes that I could change the brightness on the plane’s TV. Not my smartest moment) and really liked it. I felt I didn’t need to read the book afterwards so I didn’t bother to pick it up. Though this was at a time when I wasn’t that into zombies, otherwise I’d be picking up anything related to the genre and devouring it (excuse the pun).

I was drawn to The New Hunger because of the cover and, although I knew it was a prequel to Warm Bodies, I thought it would be a good jumping off point. I really liked the book as it set up a few characters that I was instantly drawn to. I was especially fond of a brother and sister who were fighting for survival on their own against a world of undead monsters and it made me think about them in terms of me and my little brother as well.

It’s also not overly ridiculous and things are kept quite realistic in terms of how things would go down. Even something as simple as a mother and daughter going to the toilet together without any shadow of societal modesty while doing their business – it’s realistic in the book’s world, whereas things like shaved arm pits and time for makeup and going to the toilet by yourself – these things are silly and often wedged into survival stories and I don’t like it. Too safe.

Overall it’s a great book and I’m glad I read it – I’ll definitely have to pick up Warm Bodies next. Either that, or re-watch the movie!

Unfortunately I didn’t get to finish The Fifth Wave. I’m really kicking myself for reading a review of it when I was nearly done as it condemned the book so much I think I subconsciously thought reading it would be a waste of time.