2018 Reading Challenges

Welcome to 2018! 

How fast did 2017 go? Where did those months go? I tell you where they went, they disappeared with all of the amazing books that we read! 

So in 2017 I managed to read 112 books (not counting picture books). That’s a lot of books, I know. I didn’t think I’d read that many, but hey… well done me! Well done you if you managed to even pick up 1 book and read it. 

Now that we’re in 2018, I need to set out some of the reading challenges that I will be taking part in, I say that like I’m taking part in lots… I’m not. However, I am going to read a lot. I hope. I will. 

I’ve pledged to join in with my lovely friend Rachel’s #read365. #read365 was something Rachel started for herself, but lots of us twitter people have jumped on her bandwagon and have decided to join her. #read365 is all about talking about what you’re reading, and reading every single day. I’m pledging to read, and talk about what I’m reading, every single day in 2018. There’s a load of us on twitter joining in and already it’s such a lovely group to be part of! 

I’ve also pledged to read books by British authors. I’ve joined the British Books Challenge for 2018. This challenge is all about reading books written by British authors and celebrating them! (I was so bad at keeping up with this challenge, BUT I did read a lot of British authors last year… so that’s ok yeah?)

My Goodreads total I have kept at 52. I think one book a week is the right amount. Yeah it doesn’t sound like a challenge but this year is going to be a big one for me. I’m going to be finishing qualifying, hopefully getting my own classroom and starting my class teacher journey. Who knows how much time I’m going to have to read? I will always make time, #read365 will ensure that. So 52 it is. I’m hoping I’ll smash it like I did in 2017… we shall see!

And there we go. So far those are the challenges I’m setting myself! I want to of course keep reading MG and YA books. That’s what you’ll find on my TBR and my read pile! Check out my twitter and my instagram@eenalol – for updates and pictures of what I’m reading! 

What are your reading challenges this year?
Do you set yourself a target number of books?
Are there any reading challenges you’re involved in that you think I should know about?

Talk to me! 

S x

British Books Challenge

bbc-pointed-shaded

This is me. The girl who failed MISERABLY at keeping up with the British Books Challenge 2017, signing up again for the British Books Challenge 2018.

I pledge to be better. I will make sure that I link my posts. 
I read British authors excellently last year… most of my books were British authors. I just sucked at linking them! 

For those of you who don’t know what British Books Challenge is, you should definitely check out Chelley’s blog post all about the challenge!

Some of the books I am most excited about reading in 2018: (I’m lucky enough to have read some of them already!)

2018 is going to be an amazing year for YA and MG books! I can feel it in my bones!

S x

BOOKBLOG: Alice Oseman

Radio Silence: honest, emotive and necessary

“What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken. Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…She has to confess why Carys disappeared…Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.”

People have been shouting about this book forever and during my half term mega read I finally got a chance to read this and… my god I devoured it. I sat one morning and read this within 4 hours

Here you have a book with an incredible characters. You’ve Frances, the geeky, nerdy brainbox of the school who meets Aled, who is one of those special characters who comes along and changes everything. Frances’ admiration for Aled’s podcast soon changes into working together to an eventual falling out and final rescue. No one can predict the way that life goes, in the same way no one can predict the internet and it’s complexities. I loved that this book dealt with a modern age, a modern frienship – looking at a friendship through modern eyes. The ins and outs of texting, DMing, using twitter and all those things that to us are just the norm. It’s an incredible story about the power and the villainy of the internet

Besides all of that this book has some pretty special messages to deliver. There’s a point in the book where something big happens and everything changes for Frances and Aled. What they were is not what they become. But Frances never loses sight of the power of friendship, the sense of love she has for her friend. Despite everything kindness and love wins. Important for always. Kindness should always win and it absolutely does in this book.

Frances struggles a lot with her dedication to her grades and schooling with her contrast with wanting to be herself, the creative person that she is. Through Aled she gets to divulge these creative parts of herself. She gets to be the person she should be. Another message this book shouts loudly is that. Be true to who you are. You’re the best version of you when you’re being the you you’re meant to be. I loved that. Grades aren’t everything. Yes, they’re important but man it’s better to be yourself. People aren’t going to love your GCSE results, they’re going to love you.

I’ve done this book no justice. But it’s incredible. Alice Oseman is an absolute wonderI need you all to read it, yesterday. I regret waiting so long to read it, but I am so glad I have done now. 

My goodreads review reads:

What an incredible story of friendship, honesty, pain and the wonders of the internet! I absolutely adored this. Aled is everything, I want to give him the biggest hug. I love the messages of this books so much: be your true self, grades aren’t everything and kindness. Always kindness.

Have you read Radio Silence?
What was the message you took away from it?
Can you recommend any books similar to it?

Let me know in the comments or on Twitter – you know where to find me! 

S x

BOOKBLOG: Peadar Ó Guilín

The Call: dark, gritty, brutal. Dystopian done proper.

Image result for the call paperback

“Imagine a world where you might disappear any minute, only to find yourself alone in a grey sickly land, with more horrors in it than you would ever wish to know about. And then you hear a horn and you know that whoever lives in this hell has got your scent and the hunt has already begun.

Could you survive the Call?”

Everyone had been telling me to read The Call FOREVER and I never quite got round to it, but once I had a copy (thanks Waterstones Newcastle) I had to read it then and there, and MY GOD. What a book

The Call is the story of Nessa, a young girl with a disability, who lives in a world where students are taken away and have these so called three minutes to save their lives; to outrun the enemies. The book starts with Nessa hearing about the loss of her brother to The Call and her parents worrying for Nessa, thinking that, due to her disability, there is no way she would survive ‘the call’ if it ever came for her. The story then follows Nessa through schooling in Ireland where they learn to fight, survive and ultimately prepare themselves for ‘the call’. 

There was so much I loved about this book. I went through a massive ‘dystopian phase’ a year or 2 ago and there is so much dystopian fiction out there that gems like this can get totally lost. I am so glad I came across it now, because it blew me away. The story is so dark, so gritty and there’s some pretty grim things that happen in this story but I LOVED IT. Sometimes a bit of dark, gritty fiction is what I need. Alongside the incredible story there were some pretty incredible characters, which for me totally made the book even better. Nessa, the main character in the story, is badass, brave and never makes her disability an excuse. She’s brazen and bold. Her training isn’t easy, but she gives it her all, never giving up when it gets too hard. She deals with some pretty horrible students, watching other students disappear, love and potential loss, all while being a good friend and a fighter. The other students in the book are so effortlessly diverse: in both sexuality and race. I had a particular soft spot for her love interest in the story. I don’t know what it was about him, but he reminded me a bit of Peeta from Hunger Games. 

I can’t recommend this book enough. I regret waiting so long to read it. AND Paedar is LOVELY on Twitter, go follow him. Read this. I would LOVE to chat about it!

My Goodreads review:

Absolutely brilliant. Genuinely grim and gritty. I liked Nessa straight away. So much brutality and darkness, but interesting and unique. Bloody loved it.

Have you read The Call?
What was it that you loved most about it?
Can you recommend any books similar?

Let me know on twitter (@eenalol) or in the comments, I need some more dark dystopian fiction in my life! 

S x

BOOKBLOG: Queen Mel

Hello, I’m Steph. I love Melinda Salisbury. Not in a creepy way. I think she’s absolutely wonderful. 

So when I heard The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy was over, I was most saddened. My love affair with this world and these characters had to come to and end after all of the years I had been in love with them. I was sad. Then SURPRISE there was an announcement that there was going to be a NEW short story collection released.

I WAS ELATED.

I love Mel’s writing style. She writes in such an incredible way that you feel you’re there. Her description is exceptional. I could just read it forever. 

There was ONE slight problem. The Heart Collector (which I think is Mel tbh. She has stolen all of our hearts with her exceptional books) was out in May. The month I was not buying any books. But, lol, who was I kidding? I would break my ban for her any day. So I did. PLUS it was released the day I handed my dissertation in… EXCELLENT POST DISSERTATION BOOK.

“A selection of three companion stories to the Sin Eater’s Daughter series.
When rats invade golden Tallith, the king summons a rat catcher from across the seas. But the rat catcher brings with him more than just his trade; a beautiful daughter who will bow to no man. And when Prince Aurek decides he wants her, he triggers a chain of events that will reshape the world for centuries to come…
A boy wakes up in the ruins of a castle, the prone body of a white-haired man on a bier beside him… He is the Bringer, the Heart Collector, cursed to return every one hundred years to seek out the heart that will wake his father forever. And this time the girl he finds might just be the one…
Once upon a time, in a land of gold and glory, a baby boy was born to a beautiful woman, and a wealthy man. His parents called him Mulgreen Grey, and he was destined to live a fairy-tale life; adored, envied, and wanting for nothing. But not every fairytale has a happy ever after…”

The book comes with 3 short stories – The King of Rats, The Heart Collector and Mully No-Hands. 

I consumed this book REALLY quickly (once my kindle was charged… it decided to die on me the first time I tried to read it!). Whether you’re a Melinda Salisbury fan or not, this short story collection is a BRILLIANTLY quick, yet exceptional read. You’re in a world where there are some BAD people. A beautifully written world, with loveable and despise-able characters.

The Heart Collector is a brilliant story about a young man who is cursed in that he has to find young women for his father, to try and satisfy his hunger. The young man is a Bringer. You’re introduced to a naive young man who thinks he’s doing the right thing in the beginning and then through the story you see his ideas change. There is an incredibly strong and brave young woman in the story too – I really liked her. The description in this book was everything I needed. The world, the characters and the action is so beautifully woven that it’s hard not to devour, much like the father in the story. This book has a brutal ending. But brilliant. 

Mully No-Hands is a little different from the other two. It’s a story with a meaning. It’s a story with a main character I really didn’t like. He’s a terrible person. I don’t think he KNOWS he’s a bad person. He’s rich, confident and was brought up to think he was the greatest and when all of that is taken away from him, you see his struggle. You see that life isn’t all about receiving – there has to be some give and take. Mully No-Hands has some questionable morals and his actions definitely need some working out. I quite enjoyed this – I like a story with a moral!

I have reviewed The King of Rats here: BOOK BLOG: The King of Rats.

I really enjoyed The Heart Collector. Whether you’re a Melinda Salisbury faithful, or whether you’re a newbie, I suggest you read this. It’s wonderful.

If you’re interested in my other posts:

BOOKBLOG: Melinda Salisbury

BOOKBLOG: Melinda Salisbury 2

BLOG TOUR: The Scarecrow Queen

Bookblog: Melinda Salisbury

So tell me, are you a Queen Mel faithful or a newbie? 
Did you enjoy The Heart Collector? 
Which short story was your favourite?

Let me know in the comments, or talk to me on twitter (@eenalol)

S x

BOOKBLOG: Matt Haig

Reasons To Stay Alive: honest, important, emotive.

IMG_4482

“WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FEEL TRULY ALIVE?

Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again.

A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

‘I wrote this book because the oldest clichés remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven’t been able to see it . . . Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.'”

Reasons to Stay Alive has been sat on my TBR shelf for a while. I’m not a massive reader of NF but there were lots of people talking about this book a while back, so I bought it but it just stayed on my shelf. Until just recently. I needed something a little bit different. I needed something that would hopefully inspire something in me. 

I loved Matt’s sheer frank honesty. There’s no skirting over issues. There’s frank honesty. There’s stories and anecdotes from his toughest times. There’s uplifting stories. There’s conversations he has with himself. There’s flashbacks to his darkest times. There’s the story of the start of it all. Throughout all of it, there’s honesty.

Mental health is something that is becoming more talked about but still not talked about ENOUGH. This book was brave and brilliant. Written in such a way that I devoured it in less than a day. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. I cried. I was angry. Frustrated. Sad. Jubilant. I felt everything. 

There are so many important quotes in this book that I feel I could spend a blog post quoting but I’ll choose a few:

“Hang on in if you can. Life is always worth it”
““Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind.”
“Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it. Let it go, like the Snow Queen in Frozen.”

Image result for self help reasons to stay alive

I implore everyone to read this. Even if you don’t suffer from any MH troubles, it’ll open your eyes to those who do. You will know someone who is suffering, possibly in silence. 

My goodreads review simply said:
“It’s important that people talk about mental health and it’s important for people to know that not everyone suffers the same way. I loved this book. I cried a lot.”

Have you read this?
Do you have other NF recommendations like this?

Let me know on twitter (@eenalol) or in the comments, I need more NF in my life!

S x

April Books

It’s that time again, April has come and gone! This year is flying by! We’re in the final term… (as a teacher, I count my life in terms ha! This means I have only 1 term until I start training… this makes me wanna vomit. We will get to that in a future blog post!) We have another round up and an update on my 2017 challenge!

April was a BUSY book month! 

IMG_4475

This was part of my TBR:

Also added to this list:SOGI

There was a wonderful mix of some MG books and a lot of YA books and some non-fiction in there too! If there isn’t a review currently up for the book there will be one coming up in the coming weeks! I also read some picture books this week, but I (controversially) don’t count them towards my book count of the year! This stack ended up lookin so healthy because of SundayYAthon @ Easter which I managed to devour about 5 books, alongside 2 train journeys to London to meet my lovely friend Kelly! Find out about my SundayYAthon reads here: SundayYAthon at Easter!

Shout out to Grandad’s Secret Giant by David Litchfield though… incredible picture book! (BOOKBLOG: David LitchfieldIMG_4370

This year I pledged to read 52 books. I committed myself to that on Goodreads and so I have to do it. I refuse to fail now! That’s 4 a month, that’s good going! So far I have read:

25/52 books

Apparently, that’s 9 ahead of schedule! I started Countless this morning and I’d like to get that finished today, which would mean I’m HALF WAY through my challenge and it’s only been 4 months. That would be something else!

What did I buy/acquire?

IMG_4478

  • Mad Girl – Bryony Gordon
  • The Stars at Oktober Bend – Glenda Millard
  • Chasing the Stars – Malorie Blackman
  • Anna and the Swallow Man – Gavriel Savit 
  • Radio Silence – Alice Oseman (my gorgeous Rachel sent me this!)
  • Super Awkward – Beth Garrod
  • Wintersong – S. Jae Jones (my lovely friend Kelly sent me this!)
  • The Fallen Children – David Owen
  • I Have No Secrets – Penny Joelson

IMG_4477

  • Doing It – Hannah Witton
  • The Cows – Dawn O’Porter
  • Happy Mum, Happy Baby – Giovanna Fletcher (my lush cousin Kate sent this to me to borrow. I’m not a mam but I love Gi and Tom)
  • The Adventures of Owl and the Pussycat (keep your eyes peeled this coming Sunday! I’m involved in the blog tour for this!)
  • Grandad’s Secret Giant – David Litchfield (I have read this, so it should be in my other pile but I did acquire it this month, the lovely publishers sent me a copy and I am so gratefuk… see my review here: BOOKBLOG: David Litchfield)
  • The Covers of this Book are Too Far Apart – Vivian French and Nigel Baines. 
  • Beards from Outer Space – Gareth P Jones (the amazing publishers sent me this this month too! It’s currently in school!)
  • Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink – Jennifer Killick (I am very lucky that the author sent me this! Taking it into school telling the kids it came from the author made it so special!)

Wow. I acquired a lot of books this month. Sorry bank balance.

So that’s it for April. It’s been a joy reading this month. I read some absolutely incredible books and I am looking forward to seeing what May has in store for me! More tears, laughter and incredible books I am sure of it!

What did you read in April?
Have you read any of the books on my list?
What was your favourite book of the month?
How are you doing with your challenge?

I’d love to hear from you all! Leave me a comment or speak to me on twitter (@eenalol) I’m always open to talk! 

S x

BOOKBLOG: Rachael Lucas

The State of Grace: moving, insightful and wonderful.

“Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost.
Grace has Asperger’s and her own way of looking at the world. She’s got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that’s pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn’t make much sense to her any more. Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it’s up to Grace to fix it on her own.”

The State of Grace is the tale of Grace, a girl with autism who is living her life like every other teenage girl. She has to fight with everything that comes with being a teenager: moods, friends, boys, love, loss as well as feeling like she’s an outsider, she hasn’t been given the rule book, she’s missing out on some big “life secret”. The “How To Life” book. We’ve all been teenagers, we’ve all experienced the things Grace is having to experience but seeing it through her eyes was something else. 

I really liked Grace. There was part of me I saw in Grace. I sometimes feel like she feels throughout the book. Imagine if there was a “How To Life” book. I would sign up so hard for that. I know Grace would too. Reading her mishaps, watching her unfold the way she does, being privy to the things she does was SO HARD. I just wanted to hug her, tell her it would be OK. Telling her not to throw her phone away, that being filled with self doubt was something A LOT of people feel. I wanted to be Grace’s friend. I wanted to help. I hated seeing her in her down moments but so proud of her in her high points. She’s likeable, she’s not a fool. She’s human. I loved that about her. I loved that she was relatable. HOWEVER I did not like Eve. When y’all meet Eve please tell me. At first I thought Eve was up to something dodgy. I even texted my friend Rachel (who was further ahead of me) but she helped to abate my suspicions. Eve was SO hard to get past. However, there are Eves in the world who want what Eve wants. People change, priorities change… some people don’t, some people keep their same mindset throughout their life. 

(I feel I have done this book NO justice whatsoever… I just loved it).

I thought I’d share some links to some other incredible bloggers so you can see better worded reviews! 

If you have a review then share it with me… 

Have you read The State of Grace?
Is it on your TBR? Cause if so, bump it up!

S x

BOOKBLOG: Emily Barr

The One Memory of Flora Banks: heartbreaking, engaging and memorable.

30849412

“Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.”

I was lucky enough to be sent this by my wonderful friend Rachel and it had sat on my TBR for a while and now I am not sure why I didn’t pick it up sooner! Emily Barr had been a guest author on our #SundayYA chats (Sunday 6-7pm, come along, it’s my favourite corner of the internet!) and I sat and just watched as I hadn’t read but the more I found out about Flora the more I needed to read it!

The story is about a young lady named Flora, who has no short term memory. She has memories of when she was younger, but then she had an accident and she has no memory of anything after that. Throughout the book you get the same memories repeated and the same thing over and over. This frustrated me a lot initially but as I read it became obvious that this was necessary and that in essence that’s what Flora was going through. One day she kisses a boy and this memory becomes the one thing that she can remember and that changes her life. It means that she can remember something. What follows is an almighty journey of Flora’s own self-discovery, through love and loss

Flora remembers things by writing them down in her notebook, taking pictures of them, writing them on her arm. It’s incredible how important these notes become. Her whole life revolves around the notes she takes. The one time she loses them things unravel a bit. But the kindness of strangers helps that situation. I loved the dynamic of the strangers in this book – some who are genuinely strangers that Flora meets when she travels to weird and wonderful places, and some who are her family, friends, people she goes to school with that she just doesn’t remember. 

Flora is a character I really liked. She’s brave and ballsy. She doesn’t realise her own strength. She’s got a stubborn streak. She is so beautifully written. Flora at the end of the book made my cry. Her journey made me sob. I really liked learning about her and her life throughout the book. Her brother is a particular highlight of this story. He does things for her that made me truly fall for him – he is the quintessential big brother. I think their relationship made me think of my own brother, who really is my best friend. 

S x

BOOKBLOG: Melinda Salisbury 2

The Scarecrow Queen: the perfect ending to a wonderful trilogy.

img_3884

“As the Sleeping Prince tightens his hold on Lormere and Tregellan, the net closes in on the ragged band of rebels trying desperately to defeat him. Twylla and Errin are separated, isolated, and running out of time. The final battle is coming, and Aurek will stop at nothing to keep the throne forever …”

img_3885

The Scarecrow Queen is the hotly anticipated final book in Melinda Salisbury’s trilogy, ‘The Sin Eater’s Daughter‘. 

img_3886

This book is one of the books from my most looking forward to of 2017 and it did not disappoint. I have many feelings about this books and I am going to find it hard to write about it without spoiling either of the previous books in the series, but I will try my hardest

You’re told this story from the perspective of both Errin and Twylla – the two main (badass) characters from the two previous books and I loved that. Twylla very much came into her own in this book. She became the leader, the complete Dauen Embodied that the people wanted. With her townspeople in a sheer state of terror she has to step up to be the leader that she was always meant to be. She goes about it wrongly initially but then she is guided in the right way by some exceptional new characters. Watching Twylla’s transformation from the first book to this shows her true character – from a frightened, feared “goddess” in the first book to the true leader that she was meant to be in this. Her journey was incredible to read. Errin on the other hand is very much in someone else’s control. I hated the treatment of Errin in the book, I had so much anger towards her controller but because Errin is the character she is, she’s the fighter, the one who never gives up, such spirit, you know that she’d get there. Her family being so important to her, they are her Achilles heel, she puts up with an awful lot of torture in this book for them. For me the girls have been the stand out in these stories. The men (Merek, Aurek, Silas) have played important roles but it is incredible to watch these girls transform and stand up for what they believe in. More books need young ladies like this. 

The last few lines gave me so much joy. So much joy. But don’t skip ahead. You need to experience the whole pain, the success, the failure, the cold, the warmth to appreciate the last few lines. The plot of this is so wonderful – you see Twylla and Errin fighting for the things that mean the most to them, their people, their families, their power. There are moments of disbelief, moments of love, friendship, joy. You won’t know where you stand emotionally from one moment to the other. There is such a contrast between Twylla’s journey through TSQ and Errin’s – the juxtaposition between freedom and imprisonment was something that had me gripped from the start. From the castles, to the woods, to the camps and the towns… it’s all gripping and believable. The whole world that Melinda has written is so believable. I would love to visit.

My goodreads review does this book NO justice: “What an incredible ending to one of the most majestic, dark, daring and wicked trilogies I’ve ever read. This book gave me EVERYTHING I wanted and so much more. I admire Twylla and Errin so much – they stand up for what they believe in, unashamedly and unabashed. I loved this book. It was the perfect ending. I am so sad it’s all over though :(“

I can not wait to see what Melinda Salisbury comes up with next. If it is deliciously evil as TSED has been then I will be the first in line for it! 

S x