The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton

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Sigh. I don’t really know what to think about this one. I had heard such amazing reviews, and so was really excited to read it, but it just kinda, missed something for me. I don’t know.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender tells the life story of Ava Lavender, a girl, born in the twenties, who has wings. It follows not only her life, but those of her mother and grandmother, twisting them all together to create a sad, haunting tale of fate, and love, and loss, and hope.

The way it was approached was definitely really interesting. I liked the way that it told the stories of all three women, and whilst they were distinct from one another, they also intertwined immaculately. The writing was good – really lyrical and unique. I’m certainly glad I’ve read it as it makes you question a lot of your priorities and address what you really value in life. But at the same time, there was just something missing for me.

I never really got attached to the characters. It wasn’t that they weren’t well-written, or weren’t fully fleshed out, it was more that they just felt quite distant from me. It meant that by the time I got to the end, where the most dramatic event occurs, I just wasn’t that distressed. And believe me, I should have been. I was shocked true, but more in the way you’re shocked when you hear about something awful happening on the news, but you have no real personal involvement. It just didn’t affect me as much as I wished it had.

I don’t think it’s a bad book. Honestly. I think it is a melancholy book. You know those songs that you listen to just after a break up, or when something you were hoping for has gone horribly wrong, and they suddenly resonate with you about two hundred times more than they did when you were happy? Those songs that you listen to on repeat, because despite the fact that they express someone else’s woe, they somehow make you feel a whole lot better? I kinda feel that Ava Lavender is one of those songs. If you are sad, then it soothes wounds, and the beauty of the writing hugs your heart, and the difficulties of the characters leave you in floods of tears. But when you’re happy, it’s just not quite enough to leave you coming back for more.

I feel awful saying this, as the book is so well put together, but for me, it just wasn’t a winner. Sorry guys.

~ Becca x

A Belated Birthday Haul

(This was actually meant to go up yesterday, but then my internet broke, so I’m sorry it’s late guys!)

So I got a lot of books for my birthday. Like, a lot of books. It was amazing. I want to say now that I’m not bragging, I am so grateful for everything that I was given, but I thought it would be nice to show you guys how my bookshelves have expanded in the last two weeks.
Because I got so many I’m not going to go over every single one properly – that post would just be ridiculously long. Instead I’m going to talk about the ones that I’m the most excited about (although that’s pretty hard to choose) and use photographs to show off the rest of them. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words :P I do apologise for my photography skills though – I don’t have a proper camera, so I have to use my iPad which is okay in terms of quality but makes actually taking the pictures a bit awkward! There’s also a limited selection of potential photograph taking spots in my room so I improvised. I don’t think they came out too badly though!

Here’s what I got:
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And these are the five I’m the most excited about:

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These Broken Stars not only has an amazingly beautiful cover, but I’d also heard so many good things about it that I needed it. I’ve actually already read this one- I read it pretty much as soon as I got it – and it was fab. You should all go and get it now while I pootle off down to Waterstones and acquire the second one in equally gorgeous hardcover, because matching sets are important, okay.

Vicious, by V.E. Schwab has had amazing reviews on BookTube. It’s close enough to the fantasy-YA genres that I can almost guarantee that I’ll enjoy it, but from what I’ve heard it’s different enough to be refreshing and exciting. Also, got to get excited over a book where character development is one of the biggest praises I’ve heard for it!

The Girl With All The Gifts. This is a weird one. I’m really intrigued – I love post apocalyptic stuff, and things based around survival and rebuilding so on that note I’m really looking forwards to it. On the other hand, I am absolutely terrified of zombies. Like, can’t watch more than about ten minutes of the walking dead without guaranteeing myself nightmares, and I have planned out my entire survival plan in the event that, god forbid, a zombie apocalypse does occur, level of terrified. I know it’s ridiculous, but my brain is weird. So yeah, bit scared of this one. I’m taking it up to uni with me because my boyfriend is staying with me and then he can look after me when I inevitably terrify myself.

The Dream Thieves. The Raven Boys was pretty great, so I have high hopes. On another note, I’m currently reading the Scorpio Races (it’s the one hiding half off the left edge of the picture above) and I’m less thrilled by it. This is sad.

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson because I’ve heard amazing things about his writing and I have to start somewhere. Also I haven’t read a good, proper fantasy book in ages, unless you count the Mime Order, so I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it once term ends!

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Also, a shout out to Mary-Lou at the Chalet School, which was given to me by my sister. I have actually read it, which is why it’s not on my most anticipated, but I was super excited nonetheless. I read loads of the Chalet School books when I was younger, and they’re really nostalgic for me, so I’ve been collecting them for years. However, finding the unabridged versions is either really difficult or really expensive so I am very happy to have another to add to the collection. I might do a post on my Chalet School books one day, as basically no-one I know has even heard of them, let alone read them, while I’m basically obsessed.
Thank you to all the wonderful people in my life who got me books.  I am super lucky, and now I need a new bookshelf as mine are exploding.

~ Becca x

A Spring Tag (Kind Of)

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As it’s Easter, and spring officially started a few weeks ago, I wanted to do a Spring/Easter tag, a bit like the Christmas ones that were around, but I couldn’t actually find one I liked – everything seemed to be very beauty related, and while I do love my beauty, and might keep some of the questions, I didn’t really think it fitted with this blog! So instead I decided to make one up… Lets see how this goes:

1. What do you like most about Spring?

I love that spring marks the end of winter – I am definitely a Summer child, and as soon as the wild flowers start to bloom, and the sun starts to replace the rain I get infinitely happier. Waking up when it isn’t pitch black outside makes me so much more excited to start the day, and always reminds me that summer is coming!

2. What is your favourite Easter chocolate?

It used to be Creme Eggs, because they’re amazing, but now that they’ve gone and changed the chocolate it’s not the same anymore, and they’ve become a bit of a disappointment… WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT? It makes me so sad. So Mini Eggs maybe? Or that Cadburys chocolate bar with white chocolate bunnies on it, because they’re adorable.

3. How do you update your wardrobe for Spring?

More dresses. More skirts. Less boots. Hopefully I can start to phase the tights out soon, and then shorts, and crop tops, and loose t-shirts and bliss. Also I tend to go from dark lipstick to bright or nude lipstick around this time!

4. What kind of books do you like to read in Spring?

I’m not the kind of person who changes they’re reading habits that much based on the season, so if there’s a book I really want to read, I’ll still just read it. That being said, I think I do tend to steer away from the heavier, more intense books or anything super long in spring – I’d rather have something light-hearted and uplifting! I think I also tend to read more contemporary books in the spring and summer, but I think that’s coincidence rather than a rule!

5. Do your family have any particular Spring/Easter traditions?

My Mum’s side of the family always have a gathering on Easter Sunday, to celebrate Easter. The whole extended family would pile into either my Grandparent’s and then later, my Aunt’s house, to eat a lot of food, and just generally catch up. It’s one of the few times a year where we get the whole family together, so it’s always really nice! Since we were small there would be an Easter Egg hunt for all the kids, although that is stopping this year, as the majority of the cousins are now around 20!

So there is my Spring Tag, or my attempt at it at least. I wanted to keep it quite short, as long tags can sometimes be a bit of a hassle. I use the word tag loosely, as I’m not actually going to tag anyone, but I would love to hear all of your answers! So definitely give it a go if you fancy :)

Happy Easter everyone, I hope the Easter Bunny brings you all of the chocolate!

~ Becca x

The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

So it turns out I’ve had this sitting in my drafts for the last two months; god knows why I didn’t actually post it. Have it now to make up for my absolute lack of usefulness on the blog front. SORRY GUYS. The good news is the first draft of my thesis is only 50 words away from being done, and I get to go home tomorrow which means more time for blogging. Hopefully. I promise nothing. It was also my birthday yesterday so expect a birthday haul soon – although I know my father only ordered my presents on my birthday, so whether they’ll actually arrive in the near future remains to be seen. Anyway:

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This book has been on my TBR for so long. I remember when it came out and it was on the 3 for 2 stand at Waterstones. And yet it took me until this Christmas to buy it.

I have to say I massively underrated Maggie Stiefvater’s writing. I read Lament when I was a lot younger and really enjoyed it, but when I read Shiver etc a few years ago I didn’t really connect with it. It wasn’t awful and I still finished the whole series but I felt like there was something missing. I put my enjoyment of Lament down to tastes changing with age and never really got around to picking up the Raven Boys. But then I heard really great things and I finally, finally got around to getting it. I wasn’t disappointed.

I felt like the Raven Boys was a bit more mature than the Wolves trilogy which I appreciated. I found Blue incredibly interesting as a character. Obviously the love story is one of the major plot themes, and I really like the way it was approached. Blue was niether the love-sick girl mooning over an idolised boy, or the strong, overly I independant woman who needs no man but is overcome by one particularly persistent love interest. The same was true of Gansey: he had a good balance between cocky-facade and genuine, confused teenager which is something I see in a lot of people I know. The changing points of view really exaggerated it and at so many points I just wanted to give him a hug or jump up and down in excitement with him. I wasn’t so convinced by the love triangle, as ever, but it was at least less forced than most.

The plot was interesting, even if I could kinda guess what was going to happen. I am super interested to find out more about the trees though, both the talking ones and the vision one.

There was one thing I was really impressed by though and I can’t decide if I liked it or not: the atmosphere. It was so creepy. It might just be me but the whole time I was reading the book I felt like I was being watched. I was so on edge. It was both great because I got so immersed, and really disconcerting as I don’t often get it with books. Really really impressed with it though.

So yeah, I am back on the Maggie Stiefvater train guys! :D

~ Becca x

An Update, Finally

I am sorry that I have been AWOL for the last few weeks. I know I don’t post that often to begin with, but I haven’t had the chance to post at all recently, so I’m sorry to anyone who was checking back looking for new content. I suck.

 

Life has been super hectic recently – doing a one year Masters means they smush an entire degree into a very short space of time, and to be honest, it just doesn’t really fit. Everyone ends up completely swamped with work all the time. I’m writing my thesis at the moment, which means I spend most of my life sat in this cafe:

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drinking vast quantities of tea and surrounded by paper. The staff are lovely though so it’s not all bad.

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For the last term I’ve been doing bout 8 hours of work a day, along with trying to juggle two sports, which didn’t really leave much time for reading or writing. The last three weeks have also been competition season for both Cheerleading and Rowing, which means they took up even more time than usual. All the competitions were amazing though, especially Torpids which is the Bumps competition in Oxford (I might do a post at some point explaining what Bumps racing is and how it works because it really is a weird concept!) as we basically spent 4 days at the river, in the sun with cider and friends and it was bliss. Now that term’s finished the sport has died down a bit, but I’m having to make up time on my thesis which means more like 9 hour days for the next three weeks!

 

I don’t want to be making up excuses, but I also think it’s daft to pretend that life isn’t stressful when it actually is. I just wanted to update you guys, and apologise, and warn you that I might continue to be off the radar for a while. But I’m going home for Easter in a few weeks, and I can’t bloody wait! It means I’ll suddenly get a week or so where I don’t have to work at all, and I can read and write, and it’s going to be absolutely amazing. Also baths. I miss my bath so much. So there’s that to look forward to :) And Spring appears to be coming around the corner here in England too. It’s pretty darn great to wake up in the morning to sunlight, and not have to wear a coat all the time. Sun makes me so happy. Bring on summer!

 

On a slightly happier note I bought books! Well, technically I bought them at the end of January but this is the first chance I’ve had to tell you guys about it. The Mime Order is the sequel to The Bone Season, which I loved, so I have high hopes for this one! I deliberately ordered it as soon as it came out even though I knew I wouldn’t have time to read it, because I wanted the big, hardback version to match The Bone Season. I’m picky, and I like my covers to match, and they’re so gorgeous I just needed it.

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Pretty Honest is a beauty guide by Sally Hughes. I’ve only really flicked through it so far but it’s great. Her writing is really blunt, and straightforward, and its not patronising at all. It basically covers everything you can think of in the beauty realm. Review to follow! (Hopefully…)

 

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So yeah, that’s my life at the moment. It’s pretty dull tbh, but ce la vie. Time to power through!

50 Shades of Grey: The Bad and The Good

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50 Shades of Grey. The Controversy. And with the film hitting cinemas yesterday (I do not understand people who think watching some morally dubious erotica with all of the erotica blurred out is a great valentine’s date, but there you go), I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and write a post about it.

Firstly, 50 Shades is not good literature. It is poorly written, and quite frankly just promotes abuse. Anyone who claims otherwise, clearly does not understand the nature of abuse.There are numerous other articles written on this, who explain the situation far more eloquently than I ever could, (my Facebook feed is literally littered with them) so I’m not going to go into the details here. If you want more information, please, please go and read them. If you think Christian Grey is a heart-throb, please, please go and read them. That said, I want to make it very clear here that I do not condone the actions in 50 Shades as they are portrayed – they are an incredibly poor representation of BDSM culture, and the entire book is really quite sinister.

That being said, I don’t think 50 Shades is entirely bad. Here are my three reasons why I think everyone (over 18) should read at least some of 50 Shades:

1. It brought erotica massively into the foreground. Suddenly its okay to read porn, as well as watch it, and an entire genre of literature has been opened up to the public. In turn this gets people talking, communicating about sex. Whilst 50 Shades of Grey is a very bad model, other erotica is not, and those better written, better researched examples can actually be incredibly educational, particularly to young people who are only just learning about sex. Many of them promote protected sex, surprisingly one of the few places where 50 Shades is not a complete train wreck. A lot of them emphasise the importance of communication in a relationship (not 50 Shades though I’m afraid.) Some focus on casual sex, others on sex in a loving relationship, and they show that both are okay. In a society where talk about sex is still fairly limited, 50 Shades has opened the way to a new avenue of discussion and communication. While it may have its issues, other books come to the foreground which present healthy attitudes to sex, and that is fantastic.

2. Similar, yet also opposite, 50 Shades has highlighted the difficulties surrounding sexual, and domestic abuse. Abuse can take a variety of forms, and is often incredibly difficult not only to identify but to deal with. Often those being abused do not themselves realise it until it is too late. Abuse goes beyond just physical violence. Emotional manipulation is abuse. Controlling someone’s life is abuse. I feel like, while certainly not her intention, EL. James has brought what has previously been a relatively shady issue, often swept under the carpet, to the foreground. 50 Shades shows us what not to do. I know that a lot of people are boycotting the book and the film altogether because of the content. I’m in favour of the opposite: promote it, because the more people who are exposed to the actions of Christian Grey in a purely fictitious setting, means hopefully the more people that are able to identify emotional and domestic abuse, and as such protect themselves and others. Just promote it in the right way.

3. It’s hilarious. Once you accept that a lot of what happens will make you incredibly uncomfortable, the awful, awful sex scenes coupled with the awful, awful writing, and the complete lack of characterisation is hysterical. It has to be said. I have read fan fiction better written than this (actually some fan fiction is amazing and I am upset that this rubbish got published instead).

It is okay to like 50 Shades of Grey. I feel like amidst all of the controversy this has been forgotten. If it turns you on that is okay. If you think its fun that is okay. If you hate everything about it: also okay. Just so long as you realise that it is fiction and don’t try to emulate it in real life. That if you can relate to it you recognise the warning signs and go do some research on abusive relationships. That if you are interested in BDSM you don’t use 50 Shades as your go to guide. It is absolutely, perfectly, 100% fine to like/love/adore 50 Shades of Grey, so long as you make sure that your own sex life is safe and consensual.

There we go; that is my very quickly typed out thoughts on the matter. I am hoping that this isn’t controversial/doesn’t upset anyone. I want to say it again, THE MAJORITY OF THE ACTIONS PORTRAYED IN FIFTY SHADES OF GREY ARE NOT OKAY. PLEASE DO NOT WISH FOR A BOYFRIEND LIKE CHRISTIAN GREY. JUST NO.

~ Becca x

The Jewel – Amy Ewing

Once again I judged a book prematurely. Thought it would be awful. Was actually really good. I am a terrible judge of book character.

 

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The blurb described it as a cross between The Selection and The Handmaid’s Tale. Having adored both, I was very dubious as to whether The Jewel could live up to it. It did and it didn’t. I completely disagree that it is like the Selection, beyond the falling in love with a servant and poor girls wearing pretty dresses part. All of which is pretty superficial. To me, The Selection is very light-hearted and sweet, despite how irritating America is, whilst The Jewel was actually incredibly dark. This was something I realised when explaining it to my sister: whilst it doesn’t feel that dark when you’re reading it, the whole premise of selling girls to have babies against their will is super, super dark. It’s human trafficking. And in this way it very much was like The Handmaid’s Tale, but I think it was a lot less confusing, and therefore more accessible to most readers. If I had to describe it is say it was more like a cross between Atwood and Lauren DeStefano’s Wither, as it had that decrepit, unsettling vibe to it.

 

The actual plot follows Violet who has been raised since she was 12 to have children for the elite who are now too inbred to do it themselves. Her control over the auguries, which allow her to manipulate shape, colour and growth mean she can undo the defects of the royal children, an ailing that makes her special, desirable, useful. But an ability that means her body, and her freedom, are no longer her own.

 

Despite the dark overtones, I liked this book. It was fast paced and all of the characters had multiple layers to them. The Duchess for example, seems bad overall but at points you get. Glimmers of something else and I feel like there’s more to her she certainly has ulterior motives. Ash as well wasn’t entirely what he seemed although that one was a bit more predictable and even Carnelian wasn’t just a spiteful, 2D character. A lot of questions were left unanswered though, so I am intrigued to know where it goes.

 

Also there is definitely something going on between Annabelle and Garnet. Or at least I really hope there is. There were too many sly looks and strange comments for me to be happy with anything else.

 

~ Becca x

Controversial Corner: I don’t like Roald Dahl

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I’m actually posting on time for a change! I’ve decided to start a new idea, which isn’t very original, but it’s still fun to do. It’s called Controversial Corner, and will basically be me ranting (because I seem to do a lot of ranting) about things that no-one else seems to agree. I’m not sure if it’ll work, or if I’ll keep it going, but I’m going to try :) Let me know what you think!

I feel like I may get shot for this one, but I really, really do not like Roald Dahl. Or his books at least. All of my friends think it’s weird, but ever since I was a child I hated them.

I was about 7 or 8 when I first came across anything by him. My mother also is not a fan and so we never read them at home, meaning I got my introduction from being forced to watch the BFG at school. I have always had an overactive imagination and as such I am terrified of Everything. Even now I can’t watch horror films and I don’t really like sleeping by myself (obviously I do, but I sleep so much better when I share a room with someone). 7 year old me was a whole lot worse. The idea that giants would break in through your windows and eat you did not go down well. I avoided Roald Dahl for most of my childhood based off of that one experience alone.

Even now that I’m older though, Roald Dahl is just not something I get on with. I’ve read a few, mostly because they’re on my big read list, and they’re just so sinister! How is this children’s fiction?! I was going to review George’s Marvelous Medicine but I was just so grossed out by it that I couldn’t. This is what you get instead. But seriously, if you feed your grandmother flea powder and shoe polish and paint she will die. Or at least be very very ill. I just had images of small children copying what they’d read. Not okay. Nope.

And I don’t think many of the others are much better, at least not the ones I’ve read. They’re just so dark. They still kinda scare me. Maybe I just never got over that initial experience, but Roald Dahl is definitely not for me, even if it is controversial.

~ Becca x

(image courtesy of roalddahl.com)

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

Aaah, sorry this post is so late! I’ve been awful at actually posting on time recently… I’ve started writing on my phone, but the formatting’s really difficult so I always forget that they’re not actually finished and scheduled… Excuses. Anyway, The Rosie Project. A book I was pleasantly surprised by.

The concept of this book intrigued me from the beginning. The Rosie Project is the account of brilliant geneticist Don Tillman, who decides to look for a wife through the unorthodox method of questionnaire. Certain that it will find him the most compatible woman, Don doesn’t bargain on Rosie, an outspoken bartender who is altogether incompatible. But could it possibly be love?

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What I realised about half way through this book is that I often like contemporary fiction a damn side less than fantasy. A lot of it I think has to do with the fact that I read for escapism, and so reading about the real world just doesn’t take me far enough away. Starting it on the train home, by the time I arrived at my station I’d reached that point where I was a bit unimpressed. The premise was good yes, but everything was a bit slow, Gene was infuriating and nothing has really gotten anywhere. A bit like life really. I got home and took the evening off to pick up my sister, stock the house with food and watch bad tv. It just hadn’t drawn me in that much. Or so I thought.

It didn’t actually take long however before I had to know what happened. And the second half of the book was great. Suddenly the pace picked up, Rosie and Don developed as characters and I was really invested in what was happening. It’s pretty clear from the beginning. That the two of them will end up together and I was just desperate for them to realise it
Too. Preferably both at the same time. I don’t know what changed but it went from being a fairly average contemporary book, possibly even a pretty good one if that’s your scene, to one of the most endearing books I’ve read in a long time. No fight scenes. No magicians. No love triangles (thank god). Just pure, adorable romance. And it wasn’t idealised either. I’ve even found myself searching Amazon for the next one.

Don as a character, was wonderful. He was sweet, and funny, and in a lot of ways reminded me of a lot of the guys I know, albeit with the awkwardness level exaggerated to a huge extent. Rosie I was less keen on: she was brash and impetuous and made rash decisions without thinking. But that was kind of the point. That his questionnaire would have found him the perfect woman, someone exactly like him. And yet that isn’t what love is is it? And it needed Rosie to really show him that.

Sweet, funny and adorable, in the end the Rosie Project wasn’t like every other contemporary romance I’ve ever read. And it’s definitely not just chick lit. If you want something to lift your spirits in the gloom of winter, this might just do the job.

~ Becca x

Reading Challenges

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Since discovering the wonderful literary world here on the internet, I have also discovered the number of book challenges that exist. You can aim to read a certain number of books a year, do a bingo card, or even a 24 hour readathon. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and you can entirely tailor it to whatever you want to do. Which is amazing- it both gives you something to work for, and makes you part of this community who are all working towards the same thing. And I’m not doing any of them.

Part of it is that time thing I keep going on about, but a large part is that I’ve always had my own reading challenge going on. One it turns out I’m just not very good at. Back in 2003 the BCC carried out a survey called The Big Read, in which they got UK residents to vote on the top 200 books available at the time. It’s a particularly good list because it’s not just classics, but also kids books, contemporary fiction and a whole bunch of Terry Pratchet. YA didn’t really exist as a genre back then, so it’s pretty lacking, but I was still pretty impressed by what they had a produced.  And so, a few years later, when I was maybe 14 or 15, I decided I was going to read all of the books on the list. All of them. It turned out it was harder than I thought it was going to be.

Nearly 7 years later I have read a grand total of 36 books on that list… Which is quite frankly appalling. The problem I keep having is that I get distracted. Whilst I appreciate the literary greatness of a number of classics, I actually find them incredibly difficult to get into, which means I’ve read about half of another 30 or so books on that list. I just get sidetracked by other books, i.e.: The One, which I read in the middle of Flowers in the Attic. There’s also a bunch that I started and just really, really failed at. I just cannot get on with Pride and Prejudice, and I never got beyond the overly long description of the Vicar’s candlesticks at the beginning of Les Miserables.

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But other than how much I suck at it, it’s something I’m determined to keep going with. At some point in my life I will read all of these books. I’m already incredibly glad that I started, despite how little I’ve actually managed to achieve. There’s always an immense satisfaction in finishing a book, but with certain books that is amplified ten-fold. Gone With the Wind took me about four months of solid reading, it was so long and dense, and I often had absolutely no motivation to pick it up. It manages to condense the entire Civil War into about a quarter of the book. But I loved Scarlett O’Hara, and by the time I got to the end of the story I was so proud of myself for not giving up. And it was totally worth it just for Rhett Butler’s closing line. I’ve also found some of my favourite books from this list, and because I know I struggle to read classics I would never have picked them up otherwise. (I’m not entirely sure they actually count as classics, but still). A Town Like Alice and I Capture the Castle really resonated with me and are two of my favourite books of all time.capture

So yeah, I might not do any current reading challenges (I still have until January to decide if I’m going to set myself a number of books to read in 2015…) but I have my own, and I’m bloody proud of myself for still going.

How many have you read?

~ Becca x

P.S. I’m thinking about maybe making a page with the list on so I can track how many I’ve read. Ideas?