OWLs Readathon: April 2020

It’s time for Book Roast‘s annual OWLs Readathon! I won’t write about the crazy times we’re in other than to say, I hope that everybody and their families are safe. I’ve read very little over the past few weeks, not so much because I can’t concentrate (although that is in part true) but more because work has been absolutely mental since lockdown. The initial rush seems to have died down a little now and we have a long bank holiday weekend coming up in the UK in which I will not be taking my planned trip to Berlin and will instead be hunkering down to read. So let’s readathon!

I took part in the OWLs Readathon last year and it’s a truly incredible Harry Potter themed readathon. The detail is amazing, the materials are so lovely and the whole thing is just…well, magical. If you want to find the materials and the intro video, head HERE. In short, read books that fit the prompts and pass your OWLs, a la Harry Potter and his pals!

This year, I’ve decided to go for a career as a Ministry Worker, ideally in the Department of Magical Law and Enforcement, because I’m a loser and I’m a lawyer in real life and would quite like to be the magical equivalent!  To get there, I need to pass OWLs in: Charms; Defence Against the Dark Arts; History of Magic; Potions; and, Transfiguration!  All of which is to say my TBR for April now looks like this!

Charms: Lumos Maxima – a book with a white cover: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Yes, I do know I’m years behind! I have a fair amount of fantasy mixed in so I fancy something different mixed in.

Defence Against the Dark Arts: Grindylows – a book set at the sea/coast: Bone China by Laura Purcell. Man takes family to Cornwall for some restorative sea air, creepy happenings ensue.

History of Magic: Witch hunts – a book featuring witches/wizards: Witch Hat Atelier: Vol 1 by Kamome Shirahama. I’ve never read manga before but this looks super cute and, conveniently enough, is all about witches! Bonus points for giving me half a chance of reading all of these books in a month…

Potions: Shrinking solution – a book under 150 pages: A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli. At 138 pages, this novel of three German soldiers sent out into the night to track down a Jewish person sounds heartbreaking and I’ve been meaning to read it for a while.

Transfiguration: Animagus lecture – a book/series that includes shapeshifting: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger. I love Gail Carriger’s writing and I’ve had this series opener for years. I think (hope!) the series includes werewolves.

I’d also really like to get a certificate from the Defence of Fantastic Beasts seminar, for which I’d have to also pass an OWL in Care of Magical Creatures by reading a book with a creature with a beak on the cover. For that I’m going to read Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. I’ve technically read about 10% of it already but I’m ok with counting it given I have over 500 pages left! Be kind about my technical rule breaking 🙂

Drop me a link to your TBR if you’re taking part too!

The Five Highest Rated Books on my TBR

I saw Jean of Jean’s Bookish Thoughts do a couple of videos last year in which she read the highest and lowest rated books on her TBR, using books’ average ratings on GoodReads. Although I haven’t ever gone quite so far as to not buy a book if it was one I really thought was up my street that happened to have a low rating, I have used them before to ditch books from my TBR where I was already wavering.

I really like the idea of testing how closely my views fit with those of other readers. I could have started at the bottom but instead, I’m being positive and starting with the five books with the highest average ratings on GoodReads. Slight disclaimer – I’ve excluded the actual top rated book because it’s part of a series that I’m not up to yet. The book I own with the highest rating is The Way of Kings: Part 1 by Brandon Sanderson. I’m in the middle of the original Mistborn trilogy and I don’t want to start another later series until I’ve done with that. And so, without any more introduction, these are the top five rated books on my TBR, and ones that I’m going to try and get to soon!

1. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (Average rating of 4.64 from 79,324 ratings)

This doesn’t surprise me at all! I’ve only ever seen people rave about this and I actually can’t think of a time when I’ve seen it given any less than a five star, glowing review. I bought it on a birthday book buying binge when I first started seeing those adoring reviews in 2016. I’m fairly sure that I’ll love this non-fiction about the justice system in the US but I have an uneasy relationship with non-fiction so I just haven’t quite ever picked it up. I’m actually quite excited about reading this so I’m glad this is up on the list!

2.  The Missing of Clairdelune by Christelle Dabos (Average rating of 4.58 from 9,456 ratings)

This is the second in a series that is being translated from French. I didn’t read the first book at the best time – I was in hospital for a few days at the end of last year and although I did have time reading, I struggled to focus. The series is about a world in which Gods have splintered Earth into various small cities/islands with their own powers and politics. It follows Ophelia, who is married off by her family and sent to a wintery land and subjected to various political wranglings and much intrigue. It was fun and I gave it 3 stars but it wasn’t my favourite. I bought the second because the editions are beautiful and I wanted them to match and it surprises me that it’s as high up this list as it is. Perhaps because people only read the second book when they’re already invested? Ophelia can ‘read’ items and their history by touching them but we don’t see a lot of that in the first – perhaps the second shows more?  Either way, I have actually heard more positive things about this book than I had the first and I want to read more translated fiction so now is as good a time as any to get stuck in!

3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (Average rating of 4.57 from 577,660 ratings)

Of all of the books on this list, this is actually the most impressive given the sheer number of ratings. And I’d actually pretty much forgotten that I even had it on my Kindle. It’s seemingly a story of two sisters set in France during World War II. One sister lives in Paris and one lives in the countryside with her husband and both face different challenges during the war. That’s all that’s in the blurb and I’m hoping to go into it knowing as little as that! I do love a good historical fiction and I’m actually much more keen to read this now that I’ve seen how well loved it seems to be. We’re on holiday in March and I might pick this up then to weep a bit by a pool!

4. The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane (Average rating of 4.56 from 2,031 ratings)

From first glance, it’s clear that this is an absolutely beautiful book. From what I gather, it’s a celebration of the natural world, hand-illustrated and featuring words that are fading out of the vocabulary of children. I actually wasn’t necessarily planning on reading this as such but instead was treating it more as…well, art I suppose.  But it is stunning and an afternoon with some gentle nature poetry might be just the ticket while the weather’s still gloomy and cold!

5. Saga: Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan (Average rating of 4.53 from 71,019 ratings)

Another unsurprising entry! I think most people know by now but this comic series follows a young couple from different warring races as they try to escape the various assassins and other threats chasing them down. Think alien Romeo and Juliet without the tragic ending…at least as far as I’ve got! It’s gritty and adult and funny and I do love it. I fully expect this to be a four or five star from me too!

And that’s it! The five highest rated books on my TBR that I’ll be picking up soon! Have you read any of these?  Do you ever use GoodReads ratings to decide what to pick up?

Books I Want To Read Before the End of 2019

The end of 2019 has turned out to be a bit of a stinker. The short version – shit happened, there was a brief stay in hospital and now I’m sat at home pretending that I know how to convalesce. I’ve watched a lot of crap on Netflix while I couldn’t focus on books but I’m just about past that phase (hopefully!) and I’ve piled together the books I want to read in the rest of the month. There’s a common theme – relatively easy reads that look like they’ll be good distractions! Not how I thought I’d be wrapping up the year but we are where we are…

A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan // The Wheel of Time is my favourite fantasy series. Objectively I see that it has flaws but it was the first fantasy series I really loved and I’ve never finished it, which is ludicrous. I’m re-reading books 1 to 11 (this one being number 7) so that I can finally read the final three in the series. The characters and settings give me huge feelings of nostalgia and are pure comfort. 100% what I need right now and even though I probably won’t finish it in 2019, it’ll be nice to just spend a few hours with it.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley // “…a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue”? YES PLEASE. This arrived earlier today in my Books Plus Beer subscription and I instantly wanted to pick it up. I’ve been dying to buy this for myself for weeks but have been very bravely resisting as I always try not to buy new books from mid-November onwards. It turning up is about the first lucky thing to happen to me in a while so I will not be ignoring that omen!

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake // I read the first in this YA series what seems like relatively recently but was in fact January 2017 (which is evident from the fact that I forgot which was the first in the series and included that first instalment in the picture above by mistake…). I gave it 3 out of 5 stars at the time on GoodReads but a lot of the details seem to have stuck with me so it clearly had more of an impact than I thought at the time! I’m pretty sure that the series is now finished so it’s time I got back into it and wrapped it up. The series is dark and brooding but hopefully just in a “can’t not look at this” way!

 Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend // Nevermore was a huge deal last year and I jumped on the bandwagon along with everyone else. I’d love to buck the trend but the best way to describe it is by comparing it to Harry Potter. No, the series clearly isn’t that good (yet) but it is pretty bloody great. After blazing through the first book, I did what I almost always do and picked up the next one only to ignore it for months. Is there anything more diverting than a solid children’s book? No. Or at least, I hope not.

A Very Murderous Christmas, collected by Cecily Gayford // Ten classic crime short stories with a festive twist. Explains itself really!

Let me know what you’re reading in the last few weeks of 2019 in the comments!

Series to Finish Challenge 2019 TBR

One of my 2019 resolutions is to read more of the books that I own. On my shelves are far too many complete series that I’ve read maybe one or two of and then left to languish on my shelves (I even own a couple in full that I haven’t even started yet…). I’ve picked out a few of the ones that have been sat there the longest to be the starting point for my TBR for Anna’s Series to Finish 2019 challenge.  I actually love starting series so the other challenge for me in tackling series will be ticking some off without starting too many new ones!

1)  The Curseworkers series by Holly Black

A fantasy series about…well, curseworkers. I read the first book in the series, White Cat, back in February 2013, really enjoyed it, bought the two other books in the trilogy, put them on my shelves and forgot about them.  I may re-read the first one before I read the next two because obviously I can’t remember what happened in something I read nearly 6 years ago but we’ll see.

2) The Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore

This is even worse!  Another fantasy series set in a world where some have ‘graces’ (talents) and there’s magic and political shenanigans. I read the first two books in the series (Graceling and Fire) in 2010 and have owned the last instalment, Bitterblue, since not long after its release in 2012.  Haven’t read it though…

3) The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde

Now this isn’t one I want to finish or even get up to date with (it’s not yet finished and there are 7 instalments out so far) but I do want to at least read one of the ones that I own. It’s an amazing series where the lead character, Thursday Next, and her fellow literary detectives can jump in and out of novels. I’ve read the first two, The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Plot, and own the next two so I just want to at least read those two.

4)  The Extinction Trials by S. M. Wilson

This is a slightly different example of my series hoarding activities. I loved the first one in the series (kind of a Hunger Games with dinosaurs) last year and preordered the second, intending to read it straight away. Obviously I didn’t and the third book is due out in February.  I want to read the next book by then and then if I still love the series, I’ll allow myself to buy the next one.

5)  The Kingsbridge series by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth is one of my favourite books of all time. Huge, sweeping historical fiction telling the story of the building of a cathedral. It sounds dull but it’s really incredible and over a decade after I finished it I still remember it so clearly.  The next book, World Without End, has the dubious honour of being the book that I have owned unread for the longest. I’ve had it so long that I actually don’t even know when I bought it because I bought it before I started tracking my book buying and reading on Goodreads. At over 1,000 pages, reading it will be quite an undertaking but one I’m determined to get to this year.

And that’s my TBR! Let me know if you’re taking part in this challenge and what’s on your TBR if you are! Feel free to also make my problem worse by recommending other series I should be getting to 🙂

Popsugar Reading Challenge 2019

One of my main priorities for 2019 is to read some of my own books. I own 571 books that I haven’t read, which is frankly ridiculous. In 2018 so far, I have acquired 217 books and read 62. I’m fortunate enough to have a room largely dedicated to storing my books but that doesn’t mean that I need to keep filling the space with books that frankly I’m going to end up neglecting for years. So while I won’t be putting myself on any kind of ban, I am going to make a conscious effort to reduce the volume of books I buy.

As part of helping me get to the titles on my shelves, I’m going to be doing the Popsugar Reading Challenge for 2019.  There are 40 ‘regular’ prompts and 10 ‘advanced’ prompts. I actually only read 50-60 books in an average year so I doubt I’ll even get to all of the regular prompts but if I make half I’ll be happy. I might post a TBR every quarter but I haven’t decided yet…ONTO THE PROMPTS!

There are some that will be easy to tick off (multiple character POVs are super popular in fantasy and I love ghost stories, for example). Then there are some that I don’t have a clue about, like a book written by a musician or a book recommended by a celebrity I admire. No idea what I’d read for those but hopefully something I already own! There’s a GoodReads group that I’ll be raiding for recommendations as we go too and I am excited 🙂