My 10 Best Reads of 2015…

In no particular order…

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Cuckoo Song

This book has gone right up there with my all-time favourites. It’s a bonafide classic, and for me, sits in the same league as The Secret Garden or Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. It’s a children’s book that I want everyone to read, no matter their age. Gorgeous writing, super-creepy magic and a heroine that will horrify as well as inspire you. Read this book. Whoever you are, just read it.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows

So. Here’s the deal. I read an early copy of Shadow and Bone, told EVERYONE to read it, and then never got around to reading the sequels, which have since become a smash hit trilogy. And then Leigh comes over to the UK to promote this one and I only go and fall in love with her a little bit. Having ascertained that I didn’t need to read the whole Grisha trilogy before embarked on this one, I read Six of Crows with unabashed gusto. What a terrific read! I don’t usually do thrillers, but I was entirely pulled in by the characters (of which I seriously can not pick a favourite) and the world building. I want to write like this one day.

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Wolf by Wolf

I began this book with apprehension… alternate world Nazis and magical shape-shifting powers? Yeesh. But Graudin pulls it off and created a story that I was happy to fully embrace. This is a fantastical, magical joyride, powered by some pretty incredible sentences.

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

The Accident Season

I am truly startled that this is a debut, because Fowley-Doyle manages to write with so much confidence, and perfectly balances a world hinged on maybe-magic. A slippery mystery where nothing is quite what it seems to be, I was hooked by the darkness and the romance. I can’t wait to see what Moira does next!

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You the Sun

The Sky is Everywhere is an all-time favourite read of mine, and I feel like I’ve been waiting for this, the second book by Nelson, for years. Well, it didn’t disappoint. I must have reread the incredibly swoon-hot ending about a dozen times, and it inspired me to take up art classes after a decade of barely drawing a thing. The writing is lyrical,  beautiful, and powerful, and once again, Nelson took my breath away. Now hurry up and write another!

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Alif the Unseen

This was just ‘OK’ for the first quarter, and then the tables turn and this book EXPLODES. I feel like it might just sit in the same world as Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone novels, which, trust me, is one of the highest compliments I can give. And it was so refreshing for me to read about a mythology thats not so wholly rooted in Western culture. I’m hungry for more, and although I’m loving Willow Wilson’s comic output at the moment, I really hope she manages to find some time to write another novel!

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona

This book is perfect. PERFECT. It’s a boundary-breaker, a rule-shaker and a wonderful joyride of fun and malevolence. Don’t be fooled by the simplistic style. This book has more nuance and heart than anything else out there, and I’m now crazy obsessed by Stevenson’s cute and quirky brain!

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious

OMG this book is evil. EVIL. It’s delicious and wicked and sexy and a masterclass in plotting. I’ve read two books by Schwab this year, and the other, A Darker Shade of Magic, only narrowly missed out on my top ten. I picked this one over that mainly because of its central anti-heroes, who I love, and because I think that there’s more glorious things to come from Schwab’s other series. It’s probably also worth noting that V.E. Schwab is now up there in my pantheon of writers who I aspire to write like one day, alongside Laini Taylor, Maggie Stiefvater and Libba Bray.

One by Sarah Crossan

One

This is one heck of a read. Not to be entered into lightly, and one you’ll need to give yourself time to digest. I honestly don’t know how Crossan has managed to do this. It’s a breathtaking journey through tragedy and hope, and one that left me in tears. Not only is the story a fine example of Crossan’s talent, but the style, written in a series of poems and vignettes, demonstrates that she’s operating at a level of genius far beyond me.

Ms Marvel Vol.1 (written) by G. Willow Wilson

Ms Marvel

I didn’t want to include more than one entry for any of the authors I’ve read and reviewed this year, but I couldn’t have a top ten without a Marvel title, and out of everything I’ve read this year, Ms Marvel is up there as my definite favourite. I feel like this comic was written for me, and the only thing I’m annoyed about is that I’m only finding this as a woman in my thirties. Imagine what it must be like to be a teenage girl discovering this brand new superhero. I’m well jealous of all of them.

Honourable Mentions:

  • The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
  • Saga Vol.1 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
  • SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
  • The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine
  • Remix by Non Pratt
  • In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Gut by Giulia Enders

My 2015 Reading Stats…

I have all my raw data in my notebook (I usually do a big spreadsheet but was stuck in a coffee shop for an afternoon with my iPad but without my bluetooth keyboard, and there was no way I was operating Numbers on a touch-screen… so I went back to basics and wrote it all up manually!) but if you want to track exactly what I read this year, then I’d urge you to go and stalk my Goodreads account. I’m pretty open about what I read and enjoy…

Anyway… here are the stats:

  • In 2015 I read 84 books! The first book I read was The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell, and the last was Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari.
  • My reading was made up of a perfectly equal spread of male vs female writers. Exactly 50%-50%! I actually read more novels by women, but the overall percentage is skewed by the number of comics I read, which is still a male dominated area (particularly when it comes to backlist reading).
  • 26% of my reading were UK titles, and 74% foreign (almost entirely US) titles.
  • 55% of my reading was done with physical books, and 45% was done on my iPad. I was surprised at this percentage, because I *feel* like I’ve steered away from e-reading, but then I remembered my Marvel Unlimited account and everything made sense.
  • In fact, almost half of my reading in 2015 was comics! When I register a comic as a book on Goodreads, I’m always talking about the trade paperback. And yes, I count these as books. Even when I’m reading on Marvel Unlimited, I keep track of what I’m reading by referring to the issues contained in trade paperbacks.
  • This year I decided to look at how much front-list or back-list reading I was undertaking. For the purposes of these stats, front-list refers to titles published in 2015, and back-list is anything older. So, as it turns out, 52% of my reading was published this year, and 48% was published earlier.
  • 48% of my reading was comics, 20% was YA and children’s literature, 12% was adult sci-fi/fantasy, 11% was adult fiction, and 11% was non-fiction.
  • Finally, the average length of the books I read in 2015 (not including comics) was approximately 366 pages (which is longer than I thought, but probably skewed by the fact that I finished reading A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings this year).

My reading challenge for 2016: I really want to pass the 100 mark – in fact, I’d like to read at least one novel and one comic a week. So that equals 104 books total! Wish me luck!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Live-blog

The edition I’m reading is an early hardback (it came out with the first four books boxset) ISBN: 9780747532699

UPDATE: 20th October 2015

One chapter in! And comparing it to the kind of stuff I read today, IT’S REALLY GOOD!!! What I think is particularly amazing is realising that JK Rowling had a HUGE plan right from the outset. It’s quite clear that there’s a helluva lot going on in this book that’s not being relayed in this first story. What are all the wizards and witches celebrating? What’s with the owls? And what’s with this special little baby??? I think I thought the books were much more simplistic when I first read them, but now I can clearly see that the huge world-building is already at play. Also, I don’t remember Sirius Black being mentioned so early on. I’m not sure I even knew he existed before book 3? But there he is, right in the first chapter! I wonder how much Rowling knew about her world when she first wrote this. Am dead impressed!

UPDATE: 25th October 2015

p.34 – vaguely remembering a time when the post used to arrive early enough in the morning for breakfast…

UPDATE: 26th October 2015

p.67 – just read the Diagon Alley chapter – SO DARN MAGICAL. I don’t know why I ever thought that Rowling was such a mediocre writer. Having now read so much kids lit (and studied it under my MA) I’m coming to realise that JK is a fantastic writer. There is nothing else quite like this book, and what’s still so amazing to me is the amount of world-building going on – seriously, did she know what was to come in the future books when she wrote this? Because there is so much depth and room to explore, plus hints about things maybe not being quite as safe in this world as they seem (particularly with regards to Gringotts and the Ministry of Magic). Also, is Hagrid hiding half of his broken magic wand in the pink umbrella???