Jan – June 2016 | Six-Month Review

2016 Reading Progress: 39 / 50 books read

The first half of 2016 has been brilliant – I’m nearly 80% of the way through my target for the year, 15 books ahead according to Goodreads, and I’m realising how much my reading habits have changed. I’ve also been thinking more about how I integrate this blog with those habits. I am aiming for 50 books this year, and unlike last year I am including rereads as well as new reads in that goal. Yet I’m not rereading as many books as I did before last year, when I made that rule to force myself out of the fear of picking up new things that I might not like.

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I have been surprised by how thoroughly my habits and preferences have changed over the past eighteen months, and through very deliberate personal choice. I never expected to be someone who struggled to settle to rereading even an old favourite, but would rather pick up something entirely new and unexplored.

I invest so heavily in fiction that new stories used to be far more stressful than well-traversed ones, but that stress is also less of a problem now that I’ve just – gotten used to it. I’ve settled into being comfortable with not knowing things yet, trusting the author to fill in the gaps eventually, rather than it making me jittery at the start of something new.

I’ve also found some fantastic new books that I’ll remember for a long time. Interestingly, so far this year I’ve heavily favoured reading YA fiction over anything else, which is something I want to shift away from in the latter half of the year. A breakdown by type looks like this…

YA Fiction – 22

Two of these are actually books I’ve read twice within the year – Night Owls I reread when I needed something comforting, and I revisited Throne of Glass while waiting to get my hands on more of the series!

Literary Fiction/ Classics – 7

5 were for classics challenge –  I’m still finishing my June Classic The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

Poetry – 6
Adult fantasy – 1
Adult romance/ chicklit – 2
Non-fiction – 1

YA

My Top 5 of 2016 so far, in no particular order, would start with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Illustrated Edition by J K Rowling and Jim Kay. I have to give a mention to it, because it is such a special thing to have. It’s a beautiful re-visitation of a series that is incredibly important to a generation of readers. I do love the films, but for me they don’t always perfectly fulfil my vision of Hogwarts. Jim Kay’s illustrations, though, are a beautiful journey into an imaginary world full of magic and delight. I also think that having an illustrated edition makes the books a little more accessible for parents who grew up with these stories, now wanting to share them with their children. Review.

Then there’s Here by Richard McGuire, which completely blew me away. The visual story is so powerfully told and touches on an amazingly broad range of topics for a book with such a narrow gaze (literally). Here is a graphic novel focusing on a single corner of a room through years of history – way into the past when it was part of an estate, when it was a forest, when it was swampland – through the life of the families it houses – into a technological and vividly imagined future. Review.

Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel really challenged me to put myself in another person’s shoes and imagine the unimaginable. Maisie is sixteen when, in a freak accident, she is burned by lightning. Her face is destroyed, and she chooses to undergo a face transplant procedure. The book follows her journey from the hospital through her final year of high school, how her experiences match up with and deviate from those of her peers, and how her life is changed by this event.

This book is a fantastic story and brilliantly written, as well as providing an insight to what is actually helpful. I really enjoyed the perspective Sheinmel provides on the effects of ‘inspiration porn’ – those videos, articles, images we’ve all seen of people who have suffered dreadful things and come out stronger. The pressure this puts on Maisie, to heal and be enlightened, is fascinatingly explored, as are the nature of her relationships with other people who did not share her experience, and those who think they did, or those who have no idea how to talk to her anymore. Everything about this book felt superbly executed, and I would recommend it to almost anyone. Review.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt was my first book in 2016, and heavens, did I start on a fantastic story. This book follows twelve year old Jack when his parents take in foster child Joseph. Joseph is fourteen, and has never seen his baby daughter Jupiter. This story is very short and equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking. Review.

I’d seen Life After Life by Kate Atkinson around a lot, but didn’t pick it up until I’d had recommendations from several writers, and I’m so glad I did. The characters of the Todd family are fantastic, and Atkinson’s vision of what a life lived repeatedly might look like, through so many events that caused huge loss of life. I adored the character of Ursula Todd, her little brother Teddy, and was fascinated by the various people who came into her life – or didn’t. The companion novel, A God in Ruins, is also fantastic, and I think I rated it higher at the time, but I think I enjoyed it more as an exploration of Teddy Todd as I came to know him in Life After LifeReview.

2016 Classics Challenge

While I have definitely found this a challenge – and cheated a bit on my April classic with Harry Potter – I’m really glad I chose to do the Classics Challenge this year. In the next six months, I’m going to try to be more organised about choosing my classics, and not to cheat again of course… but mostly what I’m enjoying, and what I want to continue, is picking up books that otherwise, I might not have pushed myself to make the time before. Classics aren’t always the easiest to get into, but they are generally as respected as they are for a reason, and I’ve loved finding some gems that I didn’t expect.

In January I loved Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus, and in February revisited an old favourite in Silas Marner. For March I took on some poetry in Maya Angelou’s collection And Still I Rise, which seems like it should be more widely known of. In May I decided to read Of Mice and Men, and wasn’t impressed. In June I read Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, which will get a review next week!

Top TBR for July – December

One of my Resolutions for 2016 was read more of certain authors, something I haven’t lived up to so far. So I’m revisiting my resolutions a little bit – I still want to read more Ali Smith, Jeanette Winterson and Michel Faber. Margaret Atwood I will defintely be reading, as I will be going to an event of hers later in the year, so I’d like to have read as much as I can by then!

David Mitchell’s books however, while I still want to read, I’m making less of a priority for now, same for Marilynne Robinson. Rachel Joyce and Rainbow Rowell, however, I’m decommitting to altogether, because with so many fantastic new books on my shelves, I don’t think I’ll get around to them!

I also made myself a ‘top 5’ TBR at the beginning of the year, of which I’ve read… one book. In all the thirty nine books I’ve read so far this year, I planned on one of them. I think the lesson there is that planning my reading isn’t how I work. The Margaret Atwood and Ali Smith books at least cross-over with other resolutions, so perhaps I will get to those soon?!

Some books I’m super excited about right now and therefore might get to soon include The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiren Millwood-Hargrave, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld and Touch by Natalia Jaster. All of which have absolutely gorgeous covers!

Books finished January – June 2016

  1. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt 
  2. Serious Concerns by Wendy Cope

  3. Night Owls by Jenn Bennett

  4. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

  5. Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter

  6. How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne 

  7. Soulmates by Holly Bourne

  8. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

  9. Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

  10. Silas Marner by George Eliot

  11. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

  12. Here by Richard McGuire

  13. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

  14. And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

  15. Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard 

  16. The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene

  17. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

  18. When We Collided by Emery Lord 

  19. Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel

  20. Faber New Poets 13 by Elaine Beckett 

  21. Faber New Poets 14

    by Crispin Best

     

  22. Faber New Poets 16 by

    Rachel Curzon

     

  23. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Illustrated Edition 

    by JK Rowling

  24. Siege and Storm

    by Leigh Bardugo

  25. Ruin and Rising

    by Leigh Bardugo

     

  26. Throne of Glass 

    by Sarah J Maas

  27. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas 
  28. The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J Maas
  29. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas (reread)
  30. Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas
  31. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas
  32. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  33. The Remains by Annie Freud
  34. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (reread)
  35. Night Owls by Jenn Bennett (reread)
  36.   Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  37. The Good Story by J M  Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz
  38. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (reread)
  39. Fiere by Jackie Kay

Monthly Wrap Ups

JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune 

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