30books30days: Books 11-20

I started the month well having read 10 books in the first 10 days, unlike my previous attempt at this challenge my early success did not effect my enthusiasm. After finishing The Ghastling Book No 6 I decided to finish The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer by reading its final instalment, Winter. The Lunar Chronicles is a series of YA novels each a sci-fi retelling of a different classic fairytale. Winter is a retelling of Snow White, as suggested by the cover. Its predecessors are retellings of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. The characters from each novel overlap as they share the same supernatural world, Winter is my favourite character in the Lunar universe and I wasn’t disappointed in the series ending. Despite being over 800 pages long the action packed finalé was a really quick, easy read.

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I then decided to pick up another classic, my first Children’s classic of the month, Heidi by Johanna Spyri. I was inspired to read at least one children’s novel as part of the #readkidslit movement lead by WordsofaReader on Youtube. I grew up watching the 1995 adaptation of Heidi directed by Toshiyuki Hiruma and Takashi Masunaga, a movie that I adore, therefore I had very high expectations of Spyri’s classic novel. While I was not disappointed I do agree with the common criticism that the novel is, at times, sickly sweet. Nevertheless I believe this novel is under appreciated, with its heroine too often being overshadowed by Montgomery’s Anne. Personally, I prefer Heidi’s protagonist and found the setting of this novel far more captivating.

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Heidi was followed by my most disappointing read of the month, The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is Fitzgerald’s only unfinished novel as he passed away before its completion. As he is in fact one of my favourite authors, I have previously read and loved each of his completed novels, from my favourite to least favourite these are: This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby, The Beautiful and Damned and Tender is the Night.  The Last Tycoon did not live up to any of these novels, as can be expected! However I feel it would be wrong to give any other criticism to the novel so will say no more on the matter.

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Having read a couple of classics back to back, I then reached for Tokyo Ghoul Volume 8 by Sui Ishida. I enjoyed this instalment more than the last and am looking forward to completing the now finished series.

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As I am borrowing the instalments for both Tokyo Ghoul and Naoki Urasawa’s Monster from my sisters I quickly picked up Volume 3 of Monster as my 15th book of the month. I enjoyed this volume as much as the previous two and wanted to immediately pick up the next instalment. This series differs from Tokyo Ghoul as it is less gory and more suspenseful, there is also fewer main characters. However I compare them I am definitely enjoying reading both series alongside each other.

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After having read two fast-paced manga volumes I did not want to dive into another classic or binge read some of the non-fiction books I have been savouring. As a result I found myself picking up a contemporary children’s novel; A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I first read Ness last year including More Than This and The Rest of Us Just Live Here which fast became one of my favourite YA novels. Both of the novels I have previously read have been incredibly unique which drew me to pick up my third of his works, A Monster Calls. I would now happily work my way through his bibliography as I thoroughly enjoyed this novel reading it in only a couple of hours. Surprisingly I cried only once while reading this novel as early on as page 29! This will surely become a modern classic. I also recommend the movie adaptation which varies slightly from the novel but is equally as brilliant.

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I then finished my first Non-Fiction book of the month: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly which chronicles the lives and achievements of many black women who contributed to NASA research and the American Space Race and whose work has previously been overlooked in history books and documentaries. This book is not only well-written but extremely effecting, it made me care deeply for each of the ‘main characters’ including the most commonly known Katherine JohnsonDorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson,  as well as many others. I have yet to see the Oscar-nominated adaptation though I assume it is these women who are portrayed here (by Janelle Monáe, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer) on the cover of the book and the centre of the film. The highlight of the book is the successful launch of John Glenn into orbit, though it is not his personal achievement that has you, the reader, cheering. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Space.

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Having read two novels by some of my favourite writers, Fitzgerald and Ness, I decided to continue the trend by reading my second Murakami novel. One of my reading goals for 2017 was to read more novels by newly discovered authors, I met this challenge with A Monster Calls and my next pick, Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun. I read Norwegian Wood in 2015 which became one of my favourite novels of all time (of which there are currently 23.) As a result I have been eager to read more of Murakami’s fiction. I found this novel however, rather dull. My main issue was with Murakami’s narrator who, though you are not supposed to like, I found completely unbearable.  I did not care for any of the characters and saw no sign of character development, subsequently I will not be in a hurry to pick up any more Murakami novels in the near future.

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I moved back to manga afterwards as I suspected the following volumes of Monster to be far more enjoyable and found them to be reliably so, I have gave every Volume so far five stars.   I have therefore read 20 books so far throughout this challenge and hope my success continues!

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I hope you’re having a good reading month and as always,

Wish me luck!

 

Sophie

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30 Books in 30 Days, Books 1-10

The first book I read this month was a collection of short stories, Legoland by Gerard Woodward. One of my reading habits I hoped to change this year was my reluctance to read short story collections, I won this collection on Goodreads last year and ended up rating it four out of five stars. There are stories covering a range of topics including divorce and identity theft as well as some stories dealing with the supernatural. I really enjoyed Woodward’s writing and my favourite stories were ‘The Family Whistle’ where a man returns from War to find his friend has taken his identity and is living with his wife,  ‘The Flag,’ a neighbourhood dystopia and ‘The Unloved’ on the subject of separation.

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The first novel I read this month was The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner. This was my second Faulkner novel having previously read As I Lay Dying. I think I will be haunted by this novel for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed the immersive reading experience as the story is told by four different narrators, each a relative of the Compson family, who have a habit of jumping back and forth between the present and various family memories at any given time. Thus you have to be alert when reading the novel and to a certain extent put clues together to work out what is happening. The characters are three dimensional, very unreliable and in some cases extremely disturbed, our opening narrator Benjy is mentally handicapped. The plot covers some dark topics including incest and racism. I found the first two parts of the four-part novel to be the most enjoyable with Benjy, Caddie and Quentin being my favourite, though extremely flawed, characters. I found Jason’s narrative particularly difficult to read due to his aggressive, hateful nature. I rated this novel five stars as I loved Faulkner’s writing and found the characters seemed, if anything, all-too real.

 

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I then had the privilege of  diving back into Sui Ishida‘s world Tokyo Ghoul. I’m surprised this is the only volume I have read thus far in 2017 having read volumes 1-6 last year. I, as usual, really enjoyed this volume giving it four out of five stars on Goodreads. However I found this instalment to be less complex than the others, sadly volume 7 seems to act as a filler in the series. Nevertheless I enjoyed being back in the world of ghouls and catching up with all of the characters that I loved. This volume in particular focused on torture and the human psyche.

 

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I read the first Volume of Monster by Naoki Urasawa on Halloween this year and was desperate to read more. After reading Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul I decided to pick up Volume 2 of Monster. I was challenged to read the first instalment by my younger sister who has a slight obsession with the series and I was not disappointed. This is a supernatural detective series based in Germany with the main character being a top surgeon turned unemployed independent investigator, Tenma. So far it is a cat-and-mouse chase between good and evil. What’s not to love? I gave this volume five stars and loved the new characters who were introduced.

 

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I then read The Waves by Virginia Woolf. This was also a very immersive reading experience as we are constantly reading different people’s perspectives, Woolf’s novella centres around a group of friends, the narrative voice switches between these characters after almost every paragraph. While I enjoyed this novella, I prefer To The Lighthouse. I look forward to reading more of Woolf’s novels in the future. I left this novella unrated as although I enjoy the book and its experimental form, I did not enjoy all of its characters finding some, particularly Bernard, rather boring.  

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Having read a short story collection, some classic novels and some Manga, I decided to broaden my reading by including some YA novels in this challenge. They are also faster to read which may have been an essential part of my reasoning.  I decided to finish off a series by reading the third and final instalment in The Darkest Minds trilogy by Alexandra Bracken: In The Afterlight. This trilogy is basically X-Men except there are only five possible power groups and everyone who has mutated is of the same generation, the trilogy begins in one of the prisons set up to home these children and young adults and keep them apart from normal, less dangerous, society. While the trilogy is flawed in terms of the writing style and certain clichés littered throughout the storytelling,  I enjoyed the power system and the portrayal of friendship and found the messy ending realistic and appropriate.

 

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The second Young Adult novel I read this month was another recommended read by another younger sister, Angelfall by Susan Ee. This is another dystopia where Angels have come and tortured our mortal world. The novel is set in a ruined-cities, fight and steal for your food world in which the main character Penryn scrounges with her family: her mother and her disabled younger sister. At the beginning of the novel Penryn witnesses an unfair fight between Angels, her sister makes a noise that draws attention to her family so Penryn is forced to help the outnumbered Angel, by giving him back his weapon, so that the fight can continue and her family can escape. This fails and her sister is taken by one of the other Angels so Penryn forces the wounded, outnumbered Angel to take her to the home of Angels to retrieve her sister. While I enjoyed this novel I will not be continuing with the series.

 

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Having read some YA, I returned to Classic novels by reading another recommended novel, Sophie’s Choice by William Styron. I loved this novel! What I loved about this novel was the relatable, every-day-life lens in which we gain insight into this completely foreign (to modern readers) nightmarish world of Auschwitz. I found that this was done really well with the book opening in 1947 with our narrator, Stingo being fascinated by his neighbour Sophie and her toxic relationship with Nathan. Therefore we first see Sophie outside of the War and outside of herself as we only ever see her as Stingo sees her. Although her choice is obvious to modern readers, it is not revealed until, I believe, the last fifty pages of this over 600 page novel. Similarly to Frankenstein, I did not go into this novel blind, having always known some aspects of the plot and yet I also found this novel to be nothing at all as I expected it to be. Central unexpected themes of this novel include Sex and Drugs and Poverty. I also gave this novel five stars on Goodreads.

 

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The ninth book I read this month is Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I picked this novel up due to the heavy themes in Sophie’s Choice, I thought it best to read something more fast paced (although I read Sophie’s Choice in two days) and less complex. However, this novel is unexpectedly layered.

Night Film is a multi-media thriller with perhaps supernatural elements? The novel opens with the apparent suicide of a 24 year old girl named Ashley Cordova, daughter of illusive cult-horror film director Stanislas Cordova. Cordova’s films have spawned true-crime and as a result are banned, they are sold illegally and watched underground. There are many myths and legends surrounding the family. The narrator’s career in journalism was ruined when sued for slander years previously by Cordova himself.  At the beginning of the novel he decides to investigate the death of Cordova’s daughter as an opportunity to learn more on the family and is joined by two secondary characters, both with connections to Ashley, in his quest for the truth. There are some scenes in the novel that could be classed as Horror however the novel is primarily detective fiction, the ending is ambiguous and the subject of controversy. The novel also has interactive elements, different video clips etc you can access on your smart phone.

Personally, I enjoyed the ambiguous ending and have my own preferred theory which I obviously will not disclose here. There were some parts of the novel where I felt the pacing was wrong and one or two theories I felt were out of place however I enjoyed the fact that this is a somewhat messy read, if you like stories and relationships to be rounded off perfectly I would avoid reading Night Film. I will definitely be reading more of Pessl’s fiction, I gave this novel four out of five stars.

 

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Then I purchased and read the latest volume of The Ghastling: ‘Tales of the Macabre, Ghosts and the oh-so Strange’ edited by Rebecca Parfitt.  I would highly recommend this collection especially for this time of year! There are nine spooky stories in the collection, each vastly different in content and atmosphere. My three favourites are ‘Heartwood’ by Carly Holmes about a mother who is part-tree, this one I found to be one of the less scary stories in the collection but loved the Gothic-fairytale feel, ‘At The Stroke’ by Laura Maria Grierson which is a family tale about a broken Grandfather clock and a dying mother, this has a creepy, haunting undertone to the narrative and ‘The Last Laugh’ about an arcade worker and a laughing clown machine which is as menacing as it sounds. Overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable anthology that can be revisited in the future.

 

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So far I’ve had a very fortunate experience with this challenge, I am doing well with the number of books read so far. More importantly, the quality of the books have been high. I hope this continues throughout the challenge and that it remains enjoyable. Wish me luck,

 

Sophie

30 books 30 days: Week One

This is my wrap up of the first week in my April TBR challenge. I think it was around the third or fourth day in April I decided to do this challenge having thankfully already read two manga collections and a short novel which helped my number count from the beginning. In the first week of the challenge I have read seven books!

1: Deathnote Vol II by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

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Read: April  3rd making it the fourth of April when I started this challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed this volume and hope to do a series review once I’ve read the subsequent volumes. Doing a review in this way will allow me to give an honest review without being concerned with spoilers etc.

 

 

2: Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

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Tsukiko is in her late 30s and living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, ‘Sensei’, in a bar. He is at least thirty years her senior, retired and, she presumes, a widower. After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake, and as the seasons pass – from spring cherry blossom to autumnal mushrooms – Tsukiko and Sensei come to develop a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love.

Perfectly constructed, funny, and moving, Strange Weather in Tokyo is a tale of modern Japan and old-fashioned romance.

Also read on April 3rd.  This is a slow paced romance which I did enjoy however this one was just an average read in my opinion. I did not particularly love any of Kawakami’s characters although I did find the writing beautiful and appreciated the added Haiku study.

 

 

3: Orange The Complete Collection 1 by  Ichigo Takano

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On the day that Naho begins 11th grade, she receives a letter from herself ten years in the future. At first, she writes it off as a prank, but as the letter’s predictions come true one by one, Naho realizes that the letter might be the real deal. Her future self tells Naho that a new transfer student, a boy named Kakeru, will soon join her class. The letter begs Naho to watch over him, saying that only Naho can save Kakeru from a terrible future. Who is this mystery boy, and can Naho save him from his destiny? This is the heart-wrenching sci-fi romance that has over million copies in print in Japan!

Again read on April 3rd. This manga series is unlike any I’ve read before (although I have only ever tried four different series excluding this one) and while I know some people believe it has no staying power, I think it has a sort of subtle brilliance. The storyline is sad and juggles both reality and science fiction. I like the cast of characters and will be continuing with the series.

 

 

4: The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

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Having sifted through everything I have heard about the tiger and his wife, I can tell you that this much is fact: in April of 1941, without declaration or warning, the German bombs started falling over the city and did not stop for three days. The tiger did not know that they were bombs…

A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic – Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book.

Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery.

From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realizes he may have died searching for ‘the deathless man’, a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.

Read on April 5th. I may end up writing a review for one book per week of this challenge. You can find my review in two parts: (Part One)  (Part Two)

 

 

5: A Streetcat named Bob by James Bowen

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When James Bowen found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet.
Yet James couldn’t resist helping the strikingly intelligent tom cat, whom he quickly christened Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas.

Soon the two were inseparable and their diverse, comic and occasionally dangerous adventures would transform both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other’s troubled pasts.

A Street Cat Named Bob is a moving and uplifting story that will touch the heart of anyone who reads it.

I believe this was my first non-fiction book of the year which I finished reading yesterday, April 6th. Bowen’s story made me laugh and very nearly cry. I thought it was fast-paced and easy to read. However, I feel like the book did not have a conclusive ending, it seemed as though the book was ended on a whim.

 

6: Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

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At age 19 Anne Brontë left home and worked as a governess for a few years before becoming a writer. Agnes Grey was an 1847 novel based on her experience as a governess. Bronte depicts the precarious position of a governess and how that can affect a young woman. Agnes was the daughter of a minister whose family was in financial difficulty. She has only a few choices for employment. Agnes experiences the difficulty of reining in spoiled children and how wealth can corrupt morals.

Also read yesterday, April 6th. I had several problems with this novel. The first being that Agnes Grey is supposed to be a loveable and moral character. Personally, I did not like Brontë’s protagonist who, in my opinion, made no real, honest human connection after leaving her family’s home. It’s fair to say from the last statement that I was not a fan of the romance either. That being said I am more than happy to acknowledge that Agnes Grey is, for its time, a feminist novel and is therefore indisputably of high importance. I realise when writing this that I will have to write a separate review of this novel as I clearly have more to say than I had initially thought, which is also a good thing, if you are interested this review will be up over the weekend.

 

7: The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka, translated by Joyce Crick

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‘When Gregor Samsa woke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed into some kind of monstrous vermin.’

With a bewildering blend of the everyday and the fantastical, Kafka thus begins his most famous short story, The Metamorphosis. A commercial traveller is unexpectedly freed from his dreary job by his inexplicable transformation into an insect, which drastically alters his relationship with his family. Kafka considered publishing it with two of the stories included here in a volume to be called Punishments. The Judgement also concerns family tensions, when a power struggle between father and son ends with the father passing an enigmatic judgement on the helpless son. The third story, In the Penal Colony, explores questions of power, justice, punishment, and the meaning of pain in a colonial setting. These three stories are flanked by two very different works. Meditation, the first book Kafka published, consists of light, whimsical, often poignant mood-pictures, while in the autobiographical Letter to his Father, Kafka analyses his difficult relationship in forensic and devastating detail.

For the 125th anniversary of Kafka’s birth comes an astonishing new translation of his best-known stories, in a spectacular graphic package.

Table of contents:

Meditation
The Judgement
The Metamorphosis
In the Penal Colony
(Autobiographical) Letter to his Father

I finished reading this collection today. After reading The Trial a couple of years ago I was really excited to read more Kafka, my favourite part of this collection was the letter he wrote to his father. While I did not enjoy this collection as much as I hoped, or as much as I enjoyed The Trial, I still find Kafka’s writing beautiful.

 

 

Sophie

April Wrap-Up

Yes, this post is very late, forgive me. I feel like I have been in a reading slump for a long time although I have read 65 books so far in 2016 therefore I’m not actually reading less than usual I am just in an odd mind-set that often makes me reluctant to pick up my current reads. Nevertheless here is an account of the books I read throughout April…

The Radio by M.Jonathan Lee- I hope to read the other books in this trilogy and post a series review.

Tokyo Ghoul Vol. 3 by Sui Ishida- Another terrific volume, I highly recommend this Manga series.

Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan- I recently posted a review of The Darren Shan Saga books 1-6 that you can read here.

The Vampire’s Assistant by Darren Shan (2)

Tunnels of Blood by Darren Shan (3)

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll- my first ever graphic novel! I enjoyed this collection of short stories although it was not as good as I had hoped it would be. My favourite story was the one with the creepy song.

Fairest Vol. 1 by Bill Willingham- I enjoyed this read too and will definitely be reading Fables, the series that inspired this spin-off series, soon. The artwork was fantastic and very colourful which only added to the fantasy world in which our story is set.

Vampire Mountain by Darren Shan (4)

Trials of Death by Darren Shan (5)

American Vampire by Scott Snyder- This was an interesting read with a refreshing take on Vampirism. The dialogue was fantastic (as expected with King’s input) it was both dark and comical. While I may not purchase the series I would read the next instalment if I found it at my local library.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell- I gave this book three stars, it was what I expected it to be, an easy-read with an interesting protagonist who has a bigger persona online than in real life. I did not appreciate the patronising boy-drama that seems crucial to any teenage girl centred YA novel. I did appreciate the fact that this novel shows a teenage girl who suffers from anxiety as well liked despite the fact she is an introvert. It chronicles some major struggles anxiety sufferers face. The family relationships portrayed in the novel were also generally well done.

The Vampire Prince by Darren Shan (6)

Gate 7 Vol.1 by CLAMP- In all honesty I just did not understand this one. Perhaps there is more plot in the continuations? this seemed to very vaguely introduce you to three supernatural beings and a parallel dimension without giving you any real information of who they are, why the parallel dimension exists, or why the seemingly normal protagonist has stumbled upon it. Instead the basis of the plot was look one of these supernatural beings- the only girl in the whole manga- is cute. That was her main characteristic.

Wolverine and the X-Men Vol. 1 by Jason Aaron- This was my first Marvel read and I really enjoyed it, it was quirky and fun and the artwork was good. I will be reading more.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo- This book started out well for me and then I found myself, at times, getting a little bored. A tale of national identity and immigration the plot centres around some very important issues and does this well. I do not believe Darling to be a very likeable character and find her reactions to American culture interesting but her actions unforgivably selfish. I thought the friendships depicted in the novel were one of the books major strengths.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Vol. 1 by Denise Mina- I have never read the Millennium Trilogy before so went into this graphic novel blind. I loved it, the artwork was incredible and the colour pallet very appropriate to the general mood of the story and was very intrigued by the plot, I will be reading Volume 2 as soon as possible, which I expect to be better than the first due to the continuation of the plot.

Hunters of the Dusk by Darren Shan (7)

Allies of the Night by Darren Shan (8)

Killers of the Dawn by Darren Shan (9)

Tokyo Ghoul Vol. 4 by Sui Ishida-This series is consistently entertaining and each volume is inarguably purposeful. I will definitely be continuing with the series and hope to read Volume 5 in May.

Therefore I read three Mangas, 12 novels and five graphic novels which was really exciting as I had never read any graphic novels before, I will definitely continue reading this genre. I hope to read more Classic Lit throughout May.

 

February Wrap-Up

Sophie: I managed to read 15 books this month which is the same as in January. The books I read are as follows

Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: 3/5, you can see my review here

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey: 4/5, you can see my review here

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 5/5

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins 5/5

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins 4/5

A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway: 5/5

The Maze Runner by James Dashner: 4/5, you can see my review here

The Last Summer of Us by Maggie Harcourt- 4/5

The Revenant by Michael Punke- 2/5

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling- 5/5, you can see my review here

A Tiny Feeling of Fear by M. Jonathan Lee: 5/5, you can see my mini review here

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler: 3/5

Sky Burial by Xinran: 4/5

The Old Man and the Moon by Shen Fu – 3/5

A Young Sherlock Holmes:Death Cloud by Andrew Lane – 3/5

Danny: This February I have read a total of 7 books, I have not been able to read as much as I would have liked due to work commitments. I have however managed to take get 10% through my Goodreads challenge for 2016, though I am apparently 9 books being schedule, I guess that is what happens when you set your challenge at 146 books. The books I read in February are as follows:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K.Rowling – 4/5 Brilliant but not my favourite Harry Potter book.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K.Rowling – 4/5

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K.Rowling – 5/5 Probably in my top 2

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – 5/5 see my review here

The Nightmare before Christmas by Tim Burton – 4/5

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K.Rowling – 5/5

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 4/5

We are going to London this weekend as we have tickets to go to Harry Potter Studios, we can’t wait! We will definitely be writing a post about our trip and hope to come back home with a lot of Harry Potter goodies.