My Reading List 2016

Over the past couple of years I have documented every film that I have watched and reviewed them all using Letterboxd.

As a way to motivate myself to read more, I thought I would do the same for what books I have been reading, using Goodreads as a way to set myself a reading challenge.

So, this year I set myself a challenge of reading 18 books, and for the first time since doing so, I have managed to exceed my target, hooray!

Here’s how my 2016 challenge went, with a short review and rating for each of the books:

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Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

“In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.”

Written by British author Diana Wynne Jones, and first published in 1986, Howl’s Moving Castle is the first of three books in Jone’s Howl series, followed by 1990’s Castle in the Air and 2008’s House of Many Ways.

For Sophie Hatter of Market Chipping, Ingrary, being born the oldest of three is only the beginning of her troubles, since the oldest child is doomed to fail first. When Sophie’s father dies, her stepmother, Fanny, takes Sophie and her two sisters out of school. But whilst Lettie and Martha go off to become apprentices, Sophie is left with no one to talk to but the hats she creates. One day, the Witch of the Waste makes a visit to Sophie’s shop, and leaves Sophie under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance of breaking it is to find the ever-moving castle in the hills and plead with the castle’s owner, the heartless Wizard Howl. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie makes a deal with Howl’s fire demon, Calcifer: if Sophie can break his contract with Howl, then he will fix her curse. Finding herself caught up in Howl and the Witch’s conflict, Sophie soon discovers that there’s far more to Howl — and herself — than first meets the eye.

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Book Review: Story Of Your Life

“I’d love to tell you the story of this evening, the night you’re conceived, but the right time to do that would be when you’re ready to have children of your own, and we’ll never get that chance.”

Story of Your Life is a science fiction short story written by author Ted Chiang, which is a part of his Stories of Your Life and Others collection, originally published in 2002.

Premised during an alien invasion after multiple mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe, linguist Dr Louise Banks is recruited alongside mathematician Ian Donnelly and US Army Colonel Weber by the military to assist in translating communications with an alien race known as Heptapods. As mankind scrambles for answers as to why these aliens are here, Banks tries to distinguish between their two distinct forms of language – the Heptapods’ spoken language, which has a free word order, and their written language, which has a complex structure that a single semantic symbol cannot be excluded without changing the entire meaning of a sentence – a vital study to maintain peace with this mysterious race.

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Book Review: The Light Between Oceans

“There are still more days to travel in this life. And he knows that the man who makes the journey has been shaped by every day and every person along the way. Scars are just another kind of memory. Isabel is part of him, wherever she is, just like the war and the light and the ocean. Soon enough the days will close over their lives, the grass will grow over their graves, until their story is just an unvisited headstone. He watches the ocean surrender to the night, knowing that the light will reappear.”

The Light Between Oceans, written by M.L. Stedman, follows war veteran Tom Sherbourne, who returns home to Western Australia after fighting in the western trenches of World War I in Europe. After meeting and quickly falling in love with the young Isabel, the newly married couple move to an isolated island where Tom maintains the upkeep of a working lighthouse, and Isabel gets used to married life away from her family. But as Tom struggles with his numb emotions from serving in the war, and after the heartache of not being able to start a family of their own, the couple rescue a baby girl who has washed up on an adrift rowboat. Believing their prayers may have finally been answered, Isabel encourages Tom to informally adopt her as their own but, as a man of principle, Tom is torn between reporting the lost child and pleasing the woman he loves. Against his better judgment, he agrees to let Isabel keep the child, naming her Lucy and informing their families that she is their own. But when Tom and Isabel return to the mainland a few years later, they soon discover that their actions may have had devastating consequences for the lives of others.

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Book Review: The Girl On The Train

“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts. Who was it said that following your heart is a good thing? It is pure egotism, a selfishness to conquer all.”

Written by British author Paula Hawkins, and quickly becoming one of the fastest-selling novels in history after its release in January 2015, debuting at No. 1 on The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2015 list, The Girl On The Train is a psychological thriller that follows an alcohol divorcee, Rachel Watson, who takes the same train to work every single day. As Rachel passes by the same houses, she comes to recognise the people she sees and begins fantasising about the relationships and lives of those that reside there. One of these houses belongs to her ex-husband Tom, who now lives with Anna, who he cheated on Rachel with, and their baby daughter. A few doors down, Rachel spends most of her commute fantasising about the seemingly happy lives of Scott and Megan Hipwell. But everything changes when Rachel witnesses something from the train window and Megan is later found to be missing, presumed dead. Becoming entangled in a missing person’s investigation, Rachel’s involvement promises to send shockwaves throughout both her past and future.

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Book Review: The Girl With All The Gifts

“And then like Pandora, opening the great big box of the world and not being afraid, not even caring whether what’s inside is good or bad. Because it’s both. Everything is always both. But you have to open it to find that out.”

Written by M.R. Carey, based on his Edgar Award-winning short story, Iphigenia In Aulis, and originally published in 2014, The Girl with All the Gifts is a set in a dystopian future in which most of humanity is wiped out by a mutated fungal infection that eradicates free will and turns its victims into flesh-eating “hungries”.

Set at an army base in rural England, a small group of children, who appear to be immune to the disease’s effects, retaining normal thoughts and emotions, are being studied by the ruthless biologist Dr Caldwell. Spending their days in a classroom, taught by the empathetic Miss Justineau and guarded by the ever-watchful Sergeant Parks, the story centres on a particularly special young girl, Melanie. Melanie excels in the classroom and loves each day she gets to spend with her favourite teacher Miss Justineau. But when base falls, Melanie escapes along with Miss Justineau, Sergeant Parks, Pvt. Kieran Gallagher, and Dr Caldwell, and must discover what she really is to ultimately decide both her own future and that of the whole human race.

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Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.”

The debut novel by Ransom Riggs, originally published in 2011, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a young adult book that combines a collection of vintage photographs with a narrative led by Jacob, a teenage boy who follows clues from his grandfather’s old photographs. Led to a large, abandoned orphanage on a Welsh island, Jacob begins an adventure that spans different worlds and times. But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and about their special powers, as well as the powers of their enemies. Chosen to protect the Peculiar Children, Jacob must discover his own power to save his new friends from the nightmarish Hollows and Wights, who are led by the mysterious Mr Barron.

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