Achieving My 2015 Reading Goal?!?

I did it. I actually did it. I have completed my goodreads reading challenge! I only challenged myself to read 50 books, but up until summer I was so far behind with it I never though I would actually achieve it. Now I have, and two months early! I never put pressure on myself to achieve it though, even though I wanted to! But this meant that I could just enjoy reading, after having a major reading slump throughout most of 2014 / early 2015. Thank goodness that’s over. I shall refer to those months as the dark ages.

But in celebration I thought I’d look back and share some of my favourite reads from the 50, and narrowing it down was not easy at all, but I think I have a reasonable amount to share – 5. (Well, 6.) They’re not in an order. That would be impossible.

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The Queen of the Tearling / The Invasion of the Tearling – Erika Johansen 

These books are just so good! Honestly, I thought they’d be okay when I picked up the first one during summer, but it went way beyond my expectations and I immediately went and picked up the second one. I finished that one at 2am the other morning because I couldn’t put it down, which is why I wouldn’t allow myself to pick it up during school time as I had too much work and not enough time! (I now consider myself a master of self control). If you haven’t read them yet, please do. They’re now on my favourites list of all time. The only bad thing about them is that the third book isn’t out until next summer…

Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee

I still can’t believe that this book is a thing. To Kill a Mockingbird is my favourite book of all time so needless to say I was more than a little excited for this one. (I was trembling with excitement when it arrived – more excited than a five year old for christmas I think!) It was so great to read more about Scout and Atticus and what happened next in their lives.

The Wrath and the Dawn – Renée Ahdieh 

If you’ve read my review, you will know just how much I loved this book. It’s so unique and different, especially to what I’d normally read. I absolutely adored the setting and characters in this book and this is another which has a sequel out next year and I desperately want to get my hands on!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz

If I had to pick a word to describe this book it would be an easy decision: beautiful. I feel head over heels in love with the story, the characters, the writing style – everything to do with this book. It was stunning and I plan to reread it very, very soon, which is usual as I’m not a big on for rereading books, especially not so soon after I finished it! (Usually I leave at least a year!)

The Giver – Lois Lowry

This was such a thought-provoking read, and actually quite short too. I don’t know whether it’s because I particularly enjoy books that make you think and question basically everything, but this was such a good book and I would really recommend it! It was actually the first book that I read in 2015 – so it’s clearly left an impression!

What We Left Behind – Robin Talley

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Genre: YA, Contemporary, LGBT

Publication Date: 22nd October 2015

Format: eARC from Harlequin UK via Netgalley (Thank you!)

Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They’ve been together forever. They never fight. They’re deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they’re sure they’ll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive.

The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won’t understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni’s life. As distance and Toni’s shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?

(From goodreads.com)


I have mixed feelings about this book, there were parts I loved, parts I hated and parts I simply found a bit boring. I really can’t make my mind up. I didn’t dislike it though, that’s for certain.

The main thing that struck me with this book was that the characters are so stereotypical. Very little about them made them different, which made it boring to read at times as I just wanted there to be something different about the characters. Some things had obviously been included to try to do this – such as the differing backgrounds and races of Toni’s friends, but that was about it. I didn’t feel that there was a huge amount of character development either, they didn’t really change much throughout the book, not nearly as much as I expected given the premise of this book (I mean “shifting gender identity” literally shouts development!).

I also found the constant referring to pronouns irritating. Like I understood they were necessary at times, but not all of the time. The whole LGBT theme was overpowering in the book as well. Every society has a mix of people, both homosexual and heterosexual and yet pretty much every character that Toni and Gretchen meet is gay, or trans or whatever. I love reading about these characters, but I just found it unrealistic how pretty much everyone in the entire book was like this except their parents and roommates.

I did enjoy the way that the narrative voice alternated between Toni and Gretchen throughout, as it allowed me to see both sides of the story and how the events were affecting both characters, not just one of them. It also allowed the story to develop a lot more because had it just focused on one of the characters then I don’t feel that a huge amount would have happened. Because there were these two perspectives however, things moved well and it remained interesting.

I found that the majority of side characters were likeable, which is always a good thing for me as I don’t like disliking characters (usually because they end up annoying me after a while, even if they’re not actually annoying). So to have a collection of genuinely pleasant characters (of course with a few exceptions) made the book a lot more enjoyable for me. However the main two characters Toni and Gretchen, well, they’re not so likeable. I didn’t hate them or anything, they just got on my nerves with their whining and so on and they could have been a lot nicer to the other characters they meet.

However I will say that I learned a lot of things that I had no idea of before I read this book. For example, I wasn’t sure what genderqueer actually meant, and I also learned a lot of what it feels like to be dealing with these issues. We need more writers to deal with issues like these and so I applaud Robin Talley for doing just that. I imagine a lot of teens / young adults (well anyone really) dealing with these issues, or wanting to help someone with these issues, and finding comfort in a book like this as it gives an insight into how someone else feels and what should be said and done (or in some cases, not said and done) to help yourself or another.

This is one of those books which was okay, I enjoyed it, but I probably won’t pick up again. I am glad I read it and I would recommend it, but as I personally find stereotypical characters annoying it wasn’t one of my favourites (it’s one of those tropes I particularly dislike). I’d also had really high hopes for this book, and so when I read it and it had stereotypes and all that I’ve mentioned I felt disappointed, but I definitely think that maybe if I hadn’t had such high expectations for this then I’d have enjoyed it more.

I rated this 4 / 5 stars on goodreads, but I feel that there are other books I’ve rated four stars and I liked so much more, yet I preferred this to those that I’ve rated 3.5 and 3 stars so it’s somewhere in between I think…

Rating: 3.75 / 5 stars. (I won’t make a habit of the .25 / .75 ratings, they’ll only confuse me more!)

Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon

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Genre: YA Contemporary

Publication Date: September 1st 2015 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Format: Purchased paperback.

Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. But when Olly moves in next door, and wants to talk to Maddie, tiny holes start to appear in the protective bubble her mother has built around her. Olly writes his IM address on a piece of paper, shows it at her window, and suddenly, a door opens. But does Maddie dare to step outside her comfort zone?

Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love.

(From goodreads.com)


This book was just- Ugh. It was amazing. It completely blew me away. I really, really appreciated that it wasn’t a cancer story, not that cancer stories aren’t good! But I find if a book mentions illness, that illness is cancer (I’m talking about physical illnesses, not mental!) and it’s getting kind of boring and very repetitive. As I said, I really enjoy books like The Fault in Our Stars, Zac and Mia and so on, but it’s nice to have a change. After all, there are so many other illnesses out there unfortunately, and other people need books to relate to.

I guess that’s why I loved this book so much. When Maddy’s mum says mentions how immune systems are complex and difficult to predict etc, I could have cheered (I did take a photo of the page for future reference – but that’s because I’m lazy and couldn’t be bothered to get up and fetch my tabs from the other side of the room…). Somebody gets it. So many people think that if you’re fit and healthy then your immune system is fine and if you have a deficiency then you take supplements to fix the problem but this book recognises it’s not always that simple. And I am so so grateful. There are so many ways one’s immune system can turn against them – Nicola Yoon covered one way, and that’s good enough for me. That, and she raises awareness about rare diseases. I honestly couldn’t ask for a better message in a book.

I also loved the characters in this book. They were all so different – Carla being Mexican, Maddy being half African-American and Japanese (if I remember correctly… Awkward moment when I’m wrong!) There are no stereotypical characters and I loved it. They all had their own quirks and something individual and interesting about their characters too, which was great as it added a depth to not just their characters but the story too. I think that what makes this book stand out is the way that it goes against pretty much every ‘norm’ for YA contemporary novels featuring an illness of some sort and a romance.

Aesthetically this book is incredible. The cover is absolutely stunning – there’s no other word for it and inside there are graphs, notes, emails – loads of things that make it interactive and different. I personally love books that contain things like emails and notes and are presented in an alternative way. They draw me in more than regular books do, and they’re really effective ways of getting in content that would bore the reader if simply written out in a long paragraph. They also really kept the story flowing and it never really got to a slow part where I felt I had to keep reading – I wanted to keep reading. So I did. I ignored (probably – almost definitely) everyone (except maybe the dogs and shouts asking if I wanted a cup of tea – who says no to tea?) and read it in a day. It was that good. In fact, I think it was within like, eight or ten hours or something.

The one problem I had with this book was its ending. You probably know what I’m about to say. The ending itself was great; super cute, adorable and just one of those feel-good endings. But it was rushed. A few more pages and there would be no criticisms of this book whatsoever. I’m not asking for many extra pages – maybe twenty? Just enough to round everything off and finish it up and left the reader feeling bliss. Because I felt (slightly) disappointed. I couldn’t bask in the glory of the ending, and it was a sad thing. However, what actually happened in the ending was so shocking and intriguing and as a reader I really felt as Maddy would have felt – angry when she was angry, hurt when she was hurt, happy when she was happy and so on. For the reader to feel what a character is feeling is something most books try to do, but only some do completely successfully, and this was one of those successful ones.

Seriously though, if you haven’t read this, stop reading my review and go and read it. I still haven’t recovered from how amazing it was.

Rating: (Need I say?) 5/5 stars (Nope, I’m not deducting anything for the end, because the rest more than made up for it).

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Can we please just take a minute to appreciate this cover? It’s so beautiful.

Poetry Book Recommendations

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Seeing as it’s National Poetry Day, I thought I’d share some of my favourite poetry books with you all. I am a self confessed poetry nerd – I love it. I write my own after all! It’s so weird to think that this time last year I had just left my role as Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Young Poet Laureate… It honestly feels like yesterday and the time has just disappeared. I’m very much the kind of person who will pick up an anthology and read a couple of poems out of it and put it down again – I cannot pick one up and read it from cover to cover. I never have been able to, I don’t know…

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I’ll start with my current favourite: And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. This book is just perfect. I love love love Maya Angelou’s writing style; it’s honest and raw and as much as I love those poems with vivid imagery and are all symbolism, poems that say things as they are – “ugly poetry” as I heard Jen Campbell call it in one video – is my absolute favourite. But don’t think that this is harsh and unpleasant to read, this is quite the opposite. It’s beautiful and I’m going to run out of adjectives by the end of this post if I say any more…

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The next three I want to talk about (they are in no order from now on) are by Carol Ann Duffy. I own The World’s Wife, The Other Country, and The Bees. I haven’t actually read any from the bees yet as I only got it recently from the charity shop but it’s so gorgeous! The poems in The World’s Wife are written from the perspectives of the wives of famous people, and I really enjoyed this concept as some of them were humorous, some were gritty; there was a nice mix. The Other Country (I haven’t read many from this one, but the ones I’ve read I’ve enjoyed) focus on people from other countries, immigrants and other cultures, as far as I could tell. They’re really lovely books to just pick up and read a couple from as they’re not difficult reads, but they’re thought-provoking, and I like time to process them after I’ve read them.

IMG_6571The Divine Comedy by Dante is one of the most famous epic poems to have ever been written. It follows the story of Dante (I believe it’s him anyway – it’s a first person narrator) traversing through, hell, purgatory and then paradise to find salvation – I believe anyway. I’m only on page 46. I’m absolutely loving it though – I fell in love almost immediately – and whilst I was expecting to enjoy it, I didn’t expect to fall as quickly in love with it as I have. Also, this book is my baby. It. Is. Stunning. It contains images that go with the poem and it just helps with my understanding (it’s not difficult to understand, but the pictures just make it very clear) and the pages are gold edged and ugh. This book.

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Anyone who knows me knows just how much I love going to the theatre and Cats is one of my favourite musicals of all time (it’s up there with Les Mis, if it hasn’t beaten it – it’s a tight competition). What makes it better is that it’s actually based of a poetry book by T. S. Eliot – Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. I didn’t actually realise that “Old Possum” was a nickname for T. S. Eliot until a while ago. Then it all made sense! I also really love this book which I had for my birthday, Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne. Winnie the Pooh was probably my favourite programme when I was little (and to be honest with you I’d watch it now if it was on TV at some point) and these poems are just so amazing. They’re really humorous, even when I read them now. I found this other book, Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott in a charity shop and picked it up on a whim. That was a good choice. I love that there are so many different styles within this anthology and the poems just had something about them that draws me in and makes me fall in love – but that “something” I can’t explain. I don’t know why, it’s one of those feelings that you can’t put into words it’s so weird (in a good way!).

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Finally these are my favourite four anthologies that contain poems by a variety of different poets. 100 Best Poems For Children is one of my oldest books and if I remember rightly I bought it whilst in Ireland years ago. It contains stunning illustrations and I have just always loved the poems in this book, my favourite being “The Listeners” by Walter De La Mare – I’ve always loved that poem, and probably always will. I also adore England’s Best Loved Poems which is edited by George Courtauld. There are brief explanations of the poets and poems before each one and this is such a nice touch, and the poems are so well selected. One Hundred Favourite Poems, selected by Classic FM listeners has a wide variety of poems and it’s great for flicking through if you don’t want to read poems by one poet. All of these four books are good for that. Finally Best-Loved Poems, edited by Neil Philip is a beautiful book as well. The pages are gold edged and contain small illustrations and it’s gorgeous. The poems are sorted into themes (they are in England’s Best Loved Poems as well) but there is such a range of themes that you can pretty much always find one in here to suit your mood.

These are just a small few of the poetry books that I own and I adore them all. I may do a complete collection blog post / video sometime in the future, but I’m not too sure. If you want to get into poetry, I’d definitely recommend starting with an anthology containing poems from many different poets as you can find the ones you enjoy the most as well as the theme / genre / period.

Autumn Flames

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Fire:
Glittering leaves
fall softly in death
carpeting the cooling ground.
Copper hues
conducting static energy,
making the air sting.
Seemingly alive
the season dances;
playing a mocking game of change,
leaving the rest of the world
trailing sluggishly behind,
hugged still by the ashes of summer.
Sconces on trees
glow angelically,
looking more alive as they die.
As if laughing to themselves,
they whisper as the wind howls.
Colours embrace;
old friends, together only once a year.
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Top 3 September Reads 2015

This month I have read a grand total of… FIVE books. *Sighs with disappointment*. Normally I’d be happy with this many but I wanted to get to so many good books and I didn’t, so that’s why I’m disappointed. School and homework just leave me with very little time… However I did enjoy four of the books I read, so that’s good. Two of them are ebooks, so have no picture, but the reviews are linked.

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Bronze The Secret Fire – C. J. Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld

This book wasn’t what I expected but it was better. Fast paced, intriguing and finally a character I could totally (well, mostly) relate to. (ebook)

SilverEverything, Everything – Nicola Yoon

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Oh my life this book was… incredible. To choose between this and the next was so difficult. Finally an illness in a book that isn’t cancer. Not to say that cancer books are bad, but it’s nice to read a book with a character with a compromised immune system for once – even if it is taken to the extreme! I also loved the added extras in this book.

GoldFans of the Impossible Life – Kate Scelsa

Wow. Just wow. I loved this book so, so much. It was fantastic. The use of first, second and third person was so unique and just- read it. (ebook)

(Overly Ambitious) October TBR 2015

I do have half term at the end of this month, but I still think that this TBR is extremely ambitious.  I didn’t even read fourteen books in July or August when I had time, especially not including classics. The problem is I have a lot of books that I have started and want to finish, it’s halloween so, like everyone else, I want to read something (slightly) scary and I have some books for review. We’ll see. I’m going to aim for half of them I think, and hope for the best!

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  1. What We Left Behind – Robin Talley (this is an ARC that needs to be reviewed before its release date of the 22nd)
  2. The Light That Gets Lost – Natasha Carthew (Again this is an ARC but it doesn’t come out until November – but it looks so good and I cannot wait to read it)
  3. Need – Joelle Charbonneau (This is an ARC that comes out very early November and so I need to read this! The plot looks so intriguing and I’m really looking forward to starting it, although I may leave it to a time when I have a little less work to do because it seems like the kind of book I’ll want to focus on properly)
  4. The Invasion of the Tearling – Erika Johansen (Oh my days the sooner that I get to this the better I cannot wait…!)
  5. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde (I’ve already started this and I’m really enjoying it! I just had to put it down for a while because I was really tired by the time I was getting to bed (and when I picked it up therefore) and couldn’t focus on it)
  6. The Divine Comedy – Dante (This book is so so beautiful and I honestly am so excited to read it! This is another one that I’ve already started).
  7. More Than This – Patrick Ness (I’ve already started this, but struggled with it as a read before bed as it’s quite dark and I wanted something I could just chill and relax with!)
  8. Rook – Shannon Cameron (This was the Perustopia book club book and yes I missed the liveshow deadline thingy (the time to have read it by) but I’m about halfway through and am struggling to get motivated to pick it back up, despite the fact that I was really enjoying it)
  9. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs (This is as spooky as I’ll go – I’m such a wimp – and it’s perfect for halloween coming up!)
  10. Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D. H. Lawrence (I need to read this for school asap, but I’m struggling to find the motivation (for the same reason as Dorian Gray, I’m too tired to focus on a classic in the evenings when I read!))
  11. The Accident Season – Moira Fowley-Doyle (I’ve heard that this is set in October and there’s something about reading a book in the month it’s set! It’s also quite short!)
  12. A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare (Since starting Hamlet at school this year and realising just how much I enjoy (and actually shockingly understand) Shakespeare, I’ve wanted to pick up another of his plays, and this is the one I have, for some reason, wanted to read for ages!)
  13. On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan (I have started reading this and I’m really enjoying it so far, and it’s really short!)
  14. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley (I’ve been meaning to read this for ages and I’m enjoying dystopians at the moment)

So yeah, a rather long list, but these are the books that I’m really in the mood to read at the moment! I’m just hoping to have a better reading month than September…