My Reading Challenge 2017: did I make it?

My failed Reading Challenge 2017

If you judge how late this blog post is then you’ve probably guessed already that I didn’t complete my Reading Challenge 2017.  Well, you guessed right, I didn’t – I may as well confirm this now.  Although it does start this blog post on a rather bad note, doesn’t it?

Oh well, I’m disappointed (and kind of embarrassed) that this is the second year in a row I’ve not managed to complete a Reading Challenge.  In my defence, I’ve had quite a busy year.  But let’s lift those spirits up a little bit and talk about the books!

Reading Challenge 2017

My Reading Challenge 2017 (what I actually managed…)

17.  Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Apologies to Reese Witherspoon, but Wild (the film) didn’t urge me to read the book.  It wasn’t until I listened to Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete podcast with Cheryl Strayed that I really wanted to read it. But not only this book, but other books Strayed has written too.  For purposes of my Reading Challenge 2017 however I’ll stick to this one.  (Well the truth is I’ve only read this one.)  It’s an epic true story of when Cheryl walked the Pacific Crest Trail – from California to Oregon, and how the pieces of her life fell away and lead to her decision to do it.  An incredible and at times emotional tale, I’m so glad I listened to that podcast otherwise I may have never read it.

18.  Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon
Oh look at that – this wasn’t even planned!  I probably couldn’t wait any longer before I dove straight into Emma Gannon’s memoir on how she grew up online. (Again, this read wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for her podcast.)  Emma and I are the same age, so plenty of the memories in this book and cringeworthy moments are quite familiar to me.  If you’re part of the generation that chatted to friends on MSN Messenger and learnt minor coding from designing your MySpace page, you need to read this book.

Reading_Challenge_2017

19.  Paris by Lonely Planet
Is it cheating to put a travel guide in my Reading Challenge 2017?  To be honest, I discovered Lonely Planet when I was backpacking and some of them are written so poetically, it’s like reading a novel anyway.  So that’s why I included this.  Plus I had my nose buried in it nearly every morning, whilst on the metro and in the evening when I was in Paris.  Just as lovely, yet informative, as their Asian counterparts that I’ve read, with some beautiful descriptions of Paris.  I usually never go on holiday without one.

20.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Have you noticed a pattern here?  I watch a movie, like it, then want to read the book.  I’ve got to say this one was definitely as good as the film, if not better.  The casting was also spot on with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, but I’ll keep to my review of the book.  Written fantastically from the perspective of two different characters; husband and wife.  If you don’t know the story (which lucky you if you don’t) it’ll keep you guessing and hit you with some twists you won’t see coming.  A story I couldn’t put down, even when I was in Paris.

21.  Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
One of the reasons I wasn’t able to finish my reading challenge could be down to a few chunky books I’ve tried to get myself through before the end of the year.  Such as Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.  I love Bruce, but he had me reading 528 pages to get to know more about him.  I don’t hold it against him though, as every story and memory was written in the same beautiful way he writes his songs.  He sets the scene on his trips and shows across America, throwing in his thoughts and feelings in a way that’s inescapable to think and feel just as he does.  I love Bruce even more after reading it.

Reading Challenger 2017

Total: 21/25 books read

So I didn’t make it, but I’ve read some pretty good books on the way.  One of the biggest things that slowed me down was getting stuck trying to read a book I wasn’t enjoying, which was rather chunky.  This was much earlier on in the year and although I felt I was catching up after the summer, I was short of just 4 books to completing my Reading Challenge 2017.  (3 if I pulled my socks up more during Christmas.)

Will I lower my amount of books to read in 2018?  Rather stupidly no, actually.  2018 will be the last year of my twenties, so I think it’s kind of apt to aim for 30.  If I stick to books I both enjoy and are not too big, I can make it!  What have you been reading?

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My Reading Challenge 2017: 9-month update!

My Reading Challenge 2017

After suffering a reading dip over the summer (busy work schedule, multiple weddings, oh and a Glastonbury to remember), I think I’m finally back on track with my Reading Challenge 2017.  (Although I’m still quite far behind reaching my target.)

Looking back on my Reading Challenge 2017: 6-month update post, I’m quite embarrassed that I only managed to cover 3 books.  (3! )  Since then, I’ve manage to read 6.  Nearly 7, but I haven’t quite finished that one yet, so it’s officially 6 – this is me trying to make myself sound better.

It’s going to be a steep reading hill for me to try and hit my target of 25 books, having only read 16 so far.  I hit 21 last year, which makes me feel both hopeful, and a bit panicky.

My Reading Challenge 2017 (what I’ve read so far…)

11. How to Be Both by Ali Smith
One magazine article somewhere gave the lowdown on the books to read as a woman.  How to Be Both was cited as seriously important, so I immediately saved it in my Goodread’s ‘Want to Read’ list.  A few years later and I find the book in the Kindle store, reduced, so I bought it.  I wasn’t expecting the opening poetic verses (if you read a particular part of the book first), but I soon settled into it.  There are two sequences in the book which are not to read in a set order.  So, whichever sequence you read first, you’ll soon be engaged in two stories cleverly interwoven with one another, between a child of recent times and a child of the renaissance. There was something quite spiritual about it.

12. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
Having read Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, again I couldn’t resist another Kindle bargain when I saw The Psychopath Test.  It’s hard for me to really put my finger on which book I preferred out of the two.  Regardless, this was such a fascinating read.  Jon goes on a journey in discovering the history, the psychology, traits and treatment of Psychopaths and even interviews a few too.  It was an addictive read.  I thought twice before sending a single tweet when I’d finished reading So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.  With The Psychopath Test, I’ve began to assess people I know who might be a psychopath.  (Sidenote: I think I’ve known at least one! )

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson review

13. Face (Compact,): Tools, Skin, Finishes by Sam Chapman, Nic Chapman, Pixiwoo
I was hesitant to include this in my reading challenge 2017 at first, however I’d be the first to defend beauty books and their place in literature and so I’ve chucked it in.  It was a quick read, not just from the picture-heavy pages, but because of the basic language too.  Face (Compact) would be quite useful for beginners in beauty, as I didn’t find anything I hadn’t already known.  (Although I’m not a beauty expert by any means!)

14. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A book I’ve always been intrigued to read and a book that was again on offer in the Kindle store.  The Nadsat language, which was created by Anthony Burgess, is why I wanted to read this.  Mostly to see if I could actually understand it.  Admittedly, it was confusing at first, but I was soon able to translate the words the more I saw them and from the context of the sentences they were in.  What I didn’t know was the hidden meanings behind them, many taken from Russian words, as discussed in the introduction by Blake Morrison.  It’s not all about the ultra-violence that the Stanley Kubrick film was later banned for.  It’s the interesting belief surrounding youth and law that propels the book in its entirety into a read to remember.

15. The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Kang Chol-Hwan
I started my Reading Challenge 2017 by reading Yeonmi Park’s In Order to Live.  As I begun to read Kang Chol-Hwan’s account, North Korea was back in the headlines.  Having already read a North Korean defector’s tale, it was insightful to see another perspective in the country, although still as shocking.  Kang lived in Japan, before returning to North Korea, to then be sent to a concentration camp.  This is an incredible story and journey, through the horrors seen at the camp, the malnutrition he suffered, to his eventual escape and voyage to safety.  Another eye-opener from a survivor of the secret state.

16.  The Girls by Emma Cline
Based on a review by Estée Lalonde, I’d like this book if cults and the Manson Family has ever been something I’ve found interesting.  That sentence alone sold it for me and she was right.  It’s a fictional tale told from a girl who is drawn into a cult, or rather the story of the Manson family just with name changes, according to reviews on Goodreads.  I feel a bit uneasy about Emma Cline sticking, or even copying, the Manson family story.  Although that doesn’t take away my enjoyment of the book.  It’s dark and absorbing.

My Reading Challenge 2017

16/25 books read

At the start of the year I calculated that I need to read at least 2 books a month to hit my 25 book target.  With only 3 months to go until the year is out, I now need to read 3 books a month to successfully reach my Reading Challenge 2017!  I’ve got some catching up to do…

Coming up (to-read): Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, An Illustrated History of Slavic Misery by John Bills and Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think of them?  Share your thoughts, reviews or gripes in the comment section below.

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My Reading Challenge 2017: 6-month update!

George Englund Marlon Brando the Naked Actor

I realise I’m late on giving an update on my Reading Challenge 2017 – my bad.  (See my latest blog post on why that is…)

Shamefully, I’ve only read a measly 3 books since my 3-month update.  (3!  ) Disappointedly this makes my 6-month Reading Challenge update a rather short one.  (Hey, at least it’s a quick read, right?)

Nevertheless, I now must solider on and dive head first into a book at every possible opportunity.  I have some catching up to do…

My Reading Challenge 2017 (continues…)  

8. Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith
This book is partly to blame for slowing down my progress.  (I’m sorry Martin Cruz Smith, I really didn’t enjoy it.)  It’s possibly my own fault as I bought the book on a nostalgic whim; I’d been to Gorky Park in Moscow and loved it.  I didn’t however discover a triple murder in the park of the kind that opens this book.  My main problem were the characters, they didn’t seem all that believable or, more importantly, all that Russian.  I was engrossed by and drank up every word of  Child 44’s Russian descriptions, the nature of its characters and settings, which is another reason that lead me to buy this book for the same enjoyment.  Sadly, this one didn’t have the same affect.

9. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Oh my god I loved this book.  I was entranced by the film, so when I saw this on offer in the Kindle store I downloaded it in a nanosecond.  Written from Eva’s perspective, a reluctant mother whose son grew up to murder seven fellow students in a high school massacre.  The film definitely holds up to the novel, both are brilliantly written, created and acted.  This has taken my top spot for best read so far this year, so much so I’ve even done some further reading into the questions section on Goodreads!

10. Marlon Brando: The Naked Actor by George Englund
A random charity shop purchase I’ve had lying around for a few years that needed reading.  I was initially put off by the superficial Jane Fonda signature on the front, covering Marlon’s chest: “George, I love your book. Jane Fonda.”  There’s a just as cringeworthy review from Kirk Douglas that is printed on the back too.  Hmm… crying out for recognition much?  Although if you look past these weird celebrity endorsements, George Englund writes about his past friend in quite a lovely way.  The collections of memories through his perspective reveals a little insight into Hollywood’s man of mystery – at times revealing that he’s not so mysterious after all.  Yet, it still left me thinking of Marlon as a bit of an enigma.

10/25 books read

George Englund Marlon Brando the Naked Actor Reading Challenge 2017

I’m currently at 40% in my Reading Challenge 2017.  If I use the calculation I spoke about in my 3-month update, then I should have read 12 books by now!  (14 if I’m being honest with the fact this post is going out in the seventh month, not the sixth month June.)

Sadly, this means some big reads like Game of Thrones will have to wait further still until I’ve caught up, which is going to be extra hard with series 7 just days away!

Coming up: I have a few interesting reads planned though, including: Emma Cline, Cheryl Strayed, Emma Gannon and another Jon Ronson!

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Read a brilliant book lately?  Leave any recommendations in the comments below!

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New Purchases Show & Tell – May 2017

New Purchases Show & Tell May 2017

Here I am at the end of the month again!  For my New Purchases Show & Tell May 2017 I’ve been buying a few festival items to get me ready for Glastonbury.  (Not long now eee!)

I’m being sensible though and buying strictly festival essentials at the moment, it’s not quite time to gather in all the fun bits just yet.  Such as the face glitter, colour hair crayons and a pineapple drinking flask (this is actually on my wishlist.)

I’ve also been picking up some interesting reads this month too.  It’s been a while since I’ve bought paperback, so watch my video below to find out which books have caught my eye!

New Purchases Show & Tell May 2017

Time for the run down…

Power Bank Pilot – 23 seconds in
I hope I’m not judged by hardcore festival goers for bringing my phone to a festival.  But get this – my network provider EE used to dish out portable phone chargers for free at Glastonbury, back in 2015, FREE.  That all changed last year when they asked for £25 for them!  Well, I didn’t want to end up queueing at the free phone charging points again, so hellooo 20,000 MAH worth of CHARGE!

Hunter Wellies in Black Gloss

Hunter Wellies – 1:20 minutes in
I can’t shake the feeling I’ve sold out by buying some Hunter wellies, especially as there wasn’t anything wrong with my old wellies.  However, I did have some blisters pop up last year and they say spending a little extra on shoes is always a good investment for your feet.  Plus, there were plenty of Hunter advocates in the private Facebook group GLASTO CHAT that were singing their praises!  So I thought I’d treat myself, and my feet…

Want to listen to some of the bands I’m aiming to see at Glastonbury?  Click here for my Spotify playlist!

Ole Henriksen the Cleansing Truth cleansing cloths – 2:40 minutes in
Now here’s a brand I discovered through Birchbox and have become quite impressed with.  I don’t bother taking my whole skincare routine to somewhere like a music festival, because seriously what’s the point?  I don’t usually like facial wipes either because they usually break me out and make my skin generally hideous.  However, these ones get my make up off whilst lightly cleansing my skin and are worth the bit extra!

The Girls by Emma Cline – 3:31 minutes in
I read about this book from an Estée Lalonde blog post, or video, I can’t remember which.  What I do remember her saying though is if cults or the Manson family interest you, then this book is for you.  So this book is for me.

New Purchases Show & Tell May 2017 flat lay

An Illustrated History of Slavic Misery – 4:10 minutes in
I started following John Bills through WordPress a looong time ago now.  What kept me a follower was his fantastic ‘An Illustrated History of Slavic Misery’ series.  A history which feels very much unexplored and although mostly grim, John brings humour and panache to each Slav to have ever made history’s story.  Pre-order the book here!

Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon – 4:50 minutes in
I fricking love Emma Gannon.  I’ve been binge listening (if that’s a thing) her podcast of the same name ever since I’ve discovered it.  So when it came to buying her book I felt like I just needed it in paperback or hardback.  I still love my Kindle, but this book felt special and one I’d be proud to display on my bookshelf.  If you haven’t heard of this book or Emma’s podcast you must do so, NOW!

Next month…

I wasn’t joking when I said there’s a pineapple drinking flask on my wishlist (there’s a mermaid shell one too!).  So you can expect the fun festival essentials next month, after I’ve returned from Glastonbury (nooo then there’s the 2 year wait until the next one!).

If you have any recommendations or suggestions based on what I’ve been buying and loving above, please feel free to leave a comment below!  I’d love to hear from you.

I have not been asked, sponsored or paid to review any of these products. I just like to shop!

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My Reading Challenge 2017: 3-month update!

My Reading Challenge 2017

As we’re slowly sweeping into spring, I thought it was about time I give an update on my Reading Challenge 2017.

Just to give you a bit of background; last year was my first reading challenge ever!  (You can see how it went here.)  This year I set myself the goal of reading 25 books for my Reading Challenge 2017.   I thought instead of lumping you with a mammoth blog post at the end of the year, I’ve decided to divide it into four 3 month bitesize updates.

I hope this helps to give some inspiration to your next book purchase and add to your reading challenge 2017!  Let me know if it does…

My Reading Challenge 2017 (so far…)

1. In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park
This is an interesting read and one that divides reviews on Goodreads.  Yeonmi is a North Korean defector, who lived in the northern part of the country before she was trafficked into China.  Her journey is incredible, heartbreaking and unbelievable.  This is the part that is, of course, irrefutable.  The question whether she’s told the whole truth divides me (and others).  I can’t help but think there might be some deliberate haziness in places.  Regardless, an eye-opening read into North Korean life.

2.  Pretty Iconic: A Personal Look at the Beauty Products that Changed the World by Sali Hughes
I hope it’s not too inappropriate to go from North Korea to this.  I love Sali!  I’ve been following her since she started writing for the Guardian and I was lucky enough to get this signed by the lady herself at Stylist Live.  A lovely read, as usual, about outstanding beauty products interwoven around her life stories.  My only criticism is that a few descriptions were repeated within the book, but other than that; flawless.

3.  The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins by John George Pearson
Wow.  What an explosive biography.  As if the Krays need any introduction…  If east London’s most infamous set of twins has ever intrigued you then this is a must read.  John George Pearson was selected by the twins themself to write their biography, so I have no doubt everything within the two covers is credible.  I also loved how this book was a window back in time to 50’s/60’s London.  A great read.

4.  So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
I recently spoke about this book in my New Purchases Show & Tell series, so once again it’s slipped into another blog post of mine.  Way back when lashings and hangings were one of the first forms of public shaming, Jon explores public shaming how it is today; through social media.  The world’s gone digital and it now takes place on Twitter (and other social networks), with the potential to spread worldwide.  It’ll make you think twice before sending your next tweet!

5.  Norweigan Wood by Haruki Murakami
This was one of my Christmas presents from my sister and what a story to start for my first Murakami novel. The Beatles’ song Norwegian Wood takes main character Toru Watanabe back to when he first started university and memories of his first love Naoko.  Naoko was the girlfriend of his best friend, before he killed himself.  It’s hard to pinpoint what makes this book so special exactly, as it’s somewhat of a sad story that lingered after I read it.  Delicate, upsetting but quite enriching.

6.  Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Don’t judge me, this book is widely praised for being beautifully written and it is, it really is.  Why else would anyone read a book from the perspective of a man who’s in love with a 12 year old girl?  (I know, I know…)  The language is exhilarating, heady to read, like smelling a strong perfume – and it’s all written by a non-English speaker.  The best novel I’ve read so far this year.

7. The Spy by Paulo Coelho
This wasn’t a book I was particularly looking for to read, or even knew it was published.  It was on offer in the Kindle store, I had previously read a book by Paulo Coelho a few years ago, which I thought was okay, so I went for it.  Good for me then that this was a surprisingly pleasant purchase. Written in the fictional perspective of Mata Hari, a famous dancer who was executed for espionage.  I highlighted sentences from this book for the first time ever on my Kindle because of parallel  conventions a woman like Mata faced, and women still do even today.

7/25 books read

My Reading Challenge 2017

I worked out 25 divided by 12 makes 2.083 –  which means I’ll need to read 2.083 books a month to hit my goal of 25 books.  So far I think I’m on track!

There are some books out there, like the Game of Thrones series and The Count of Monte Cristo, that are still on my to-read list.  However, being such big books, I don’t want to slow up my progress just yet.  I may have to reserve these until the end of the year…

I do want to get back to some authors I love and haven’t read in a while though, particularly Ian McEwan!  So you might see less spontaneous Kindle bargains in the next update. That’s if I don’t cave into temptation of diving back into the Game of Thrones saga first…

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Which books have you been reading lately?  Leave me any of your recommendations below!

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