A January Reading List

Got a New Year’s resolution to read more? Yeah, me too.

Reading is such a funny thing. It is so wonderful when you actually get round to doing it, but most of the time there is something else to occupy your attention. Today I’m offering up some inspiration to hopefully get your nose in a book this month and kick start those resolutions!

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*For city inspiration: Eat Like a Londoner, Tania Ballantine. This is a book to dip in and out of rather than read cover to cover, but if you live in London or are planning a trip (or just want to admire from afar!) you need to get your mitts on this. It suggests the perfect place for every occasion, whether you are popping out for after work drinks or planning a full blown birthday surprise. You will never be stuck for ideas again! Be warned though, you’ll be left with a ‘to visit’ list as long as your arm.

*For a thrill: I Let You Go, Clare Mackintosh. If you struggle to pick up a book, choose one that won’t let you put it down. This book is as good as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, but it (undeservedly) hasn’t received the same hype. The book starts with a horrible accident in which a little boy gets hit by a car on a rainy night. It then switches into Jenna Gray’s narrative as she escapes to the Welsh coast to start afresh after the accident, but it all too quickly starts to catch up with her… This book is so addictive and, just a heads up, it has the best twist I have ever come across (and I’ve read a lot of these books).

*For a health kick: Deliciously Ella, Ella Woodward. Everyone has heard of Deliciously Ella at this point. She has a blog (that I occasionally read) and an app (that I haven’t downloaded) but it’s her book that I love. Not only is it filled with inspiring recipes (some I’ve tried, most I haven’t if I’m being honest) but it is packed full of nutritional information which is so interesting and, most importantly, not preachy at all. She’s bringing out her second book this month, Deliciously Ella Every Day, and I can’t wait to get hold of it!

*For a classic: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll. If your resolution stipulates reading more classics, start with something short and fun. I love this book because of how inventive it is, and you should always remember that most of these classics (particularly the Victorian ones) are loved because they are great stories. Don’t get bogged down by what everything means, just enjoy the characters and the plot lines, because they are what make these novels wonderful.

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2016 Goals

Yes, this blog post is a little late. But I figured that these goals are meant to apply for the entire year, so the fact we’re 10 days deep shouldn’t really matter.

I usually make resolutions, but then I also usually completely forget about them by spring. I can’t remember what 2015’s were but I’m guessing they were a similar selection to this year’s because, let’s be honest, they always follow a theme…

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*Get moving: I’m pretty good when it comes to exercise (though I certainly couldn’t claim saint-like status around Christmas), but it does tend to come in fits and starts. For the last few years my exercise has only consisted of hitting the gym, but this year I really want to include more variety in my regime so I don’t get bored. I’ve started with the 30 day squat challenge (which was a killer to begin with) and taken up yoga, and I’m planning on running outside more and attending a few more exercise classes alongside my usual gym sessions. It’s so important to mix things up a bit to maintain interest, so hopefully 2016 will be the best year for exercise yet.

*Get reading: When I finished my English Literature degree last summer, I felt so exhausted I couldn’t bear to look at another book again. Thankfully, I’m over that now but so far I’ve stuck to easy reading and it has completely lost my interest. This year, I want to always have a book on the go, and read some of the classics that I’ve managed to miss so far. This includes 1984, The Catcher in the Rye and Dickens (but I’m saving the massive tomes for a summer holiday). I want to keep things fun though so I’ll mix in some lighter reading, I’m currently making my way through the third Game of Thrones. 

*Get drinking: … water, of course. This is an ongoing thing for me and doesn’t need much explanation. I often forget to drink anything, and can go the entire day without a drop. This is very bad and absolutely must stop. I’m going to get a glass now…

*Get exploring: This is by far my favourite one. I’m so lucky to be back in London, and now is really the time to take full advantage of it. Tiarnan and I have promised one another that every month we will try something or somewhere new, and we’re already planning our adventures. While we wait for winter to pass we are scouting out cosy cafes for the best flat white, but come summer we’ll be exploring the parks and seeking the best alfresco dining spot. I’m sure our adventures will be documented right here, so watch this space!

Book Reviews: Young Adult Fiction

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Now, before I start this book review (or in fact any book reviews), I have a confession to make. I am a book snob. It’s what spending three years doing an English Literature degree does to you.

I used to be a real snob, and would only read classics. I got over that once I went to uni, but still completely avoided the ‘Young Adult’ section of any book shop that I went into. I don’t care what other people choose to read, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pick any YA up and take it seriously. I read so much of it as a young teenager that I simply felt too old for it.

I then finished my degree. The one thing that an English Literature degree does is completely exhaust you of reading. The summer began, the time that I usually read as many books as I can squeeze in, and I just couldn’t read anymore. So I went on a hunt for an ‘easy’ read and this finally pushed me towards to YA section.

My first stop was Amy Alward’s ‘The Potion Diaries’. To be honest, I was attracted by the cover (it’s just so pretty!) This was an unusual choice for me because not only was it YA, but it’s also fantasy. The story follows a young alchemist called Samantha Kemi, who joins the kingdom’s Wilde Hunt to find a cure for the princess, who has poisoned herself with a love potion.

It’s a fun read and the tale bounds along, keeping up a high pace but it’s nothing major. I found the characters to be a bit flat and there’s no real sense of time – they just jump from one expedition to the next. However, it was exactly what I was looking for. While the conclusion isn’t exactly surprising (three guesses for how the love interest part of the plot turns out…) it’s an easy read and the story line bursts with imagination. I really enjoyed the magical parts of the plot and the fact it was focused on alchemists – I don’t usually read books like it so that made it really fun and a bit different.

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Next up, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Another YA of course, but this one is more realistic and takes place in a school. It follows the love of Violet and Finch, who meet on top of the school’s bell tower as they both consider taking their own lives. As the front cover says, it’s ‘the story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die’.

This book was amazing. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so strongly about a book, and felt really sad when I finished it (that’s when you can tell it was great!) While I thought Violet was a bit of a drip, Finch’s character really made this book for me. He was such a well written character and I could really imagine interacting with him in real life.

I’ve seen really mixed reactions to this book, as it deals with mental illness which is always a tricky and emotionally charged subject. I can see other people’s points that Finch is defined by bipolar, suggesting that he is his illness which is a terrible way to consider people that actually suffer from it. I tried not to get too caught up in this though and just enjoyed the book and Finch for what they were.

So there was my experimentation with YA this summer. I really enjoyed both but I can’t decide what to read next… I know that The Fault in Our Stars is the really obvious choice, and I’ve never watched the film but I’m not really one for super sad books. Once I’ve made up my mind, I will keep you posted!