My reading goal for this year is 52 books – one book a week. Last year, my goal was 50 books and I read 72 books, which quite honestly is possibly the most books I’ve read in a year so far in my life.
This year has been slow when it comes to reading. Maybe because I’ve picked up gaming again, and so my focus is more split when it comes to down-time and what I choose to do. I’ve had trouble with focus some months this year, and some have been busy or tiring (like much of October when I was too unwell to do much except watch things or rest).
According to Goodreads, I’m ten books behind in my goal, with 35 books read so far. But I’m wondering if I really need the pressure. I enjoy tracking and categorising the books I read or have, but this year has been disruptive in both good and difficult ways so I’ve chosen other ways of relaxing. Having said that, I have actually read some really excellent books so far. And I’m reading in a very stop-start way with more than one book too.
Currently I’m reading:
A Rake of His Own by A.J Lancaster (book 5 of the Stariel series which is brilliant), Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao, A Spell in the Wild by Alice Tarbuck (non-fic), Bargain Bin Rom Com by Leena Norms (poetry), Unmasking Autism by Dr Devon Price, The Way Back Almanac 2022: A Contemporary Seasonal Guide Back to Nature by Melinda Salisbury, and finally, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman (this one is really fascinating, it’s like recovery from being a productivity junkie, philosophy, and some very good practical advice).
I’m pretty sure my ADHD brain likes to jump from book to book depending on what I’m interested in, but I also consistently read at least one or two fiction books at a time (not at the same time obviously!).
My reading so far this year has been quite romance and fantasy heavy. Even with some overlap between the two. I’ve been reading a lot for comfort and ease too because my brain feels a bit fried and burnt out, especially with the political crises we’ve had in the UK this year, and with getting the house ready for viewings.
I’ve found myself craving predictability more in my reading since the pandemic started in 2020, but then again I haven’t always read things that fit into that category in the past two years.
Interestingly I think I’ve read far more romance in last two years! I like contemporary romance with diverse characters the most. My favourite romance authors are Talia Hibbert, Olivia Dade, Casey McQuiston, Helen Hoang, A.J Lancaster, Emily Henry, and Olivia Atwater. I’ve also read a couple of new romance authors this year which I’ve enjoyed – Sangu Mandanna who wrote The Secret Society of Irregular Witches, and Kate Johnson who wrote Hex Appeal (seeing a theme there?).
These are fiction books I’ve really enjoyed reading so far, followed by non-fiction:
Strange Practice by Vivien Shaw
This is the first book in a series about Dr Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead. She treats the supernatural community of London and has had an intriguing background and childhood. This book follows her and a bunch of her supernatural friends and patients when a sect of murderous monks start terrorising London and killing human and non-human people.
It took a while to get into but I really enjoyed this. I’d been meaning to read it for years and finally decided to in January. It’s the kind of thing you might read around autumn and winter, it definitely has spooky vibes, but also it has an unique premise and interesting characters.
The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa
I have a soft spot for reading Japanese translated fiction where cats are involved somehow – one of my very favourite books is The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, I wrote a bit about it here.
The Cat Who Saved Books is a parable about the importance of books, not just in the life of the main character, Rintaro, a reclusive teenager, whose grandfather has died leaving him his bookshop, Natsuki Books, but to humanity in general. One day, a talking ginger tabby cat called Tiger appears, and takes Rintaro on a series of quests to save books from people who have mistreated, betrayed, or imprisoned books for their own complicated and sometimes nefarious reasons.
It’s a short book but a thoughtful one and the cat is not exactly a cuddly cute type, but all the more loveable because of it! Definitely something I enjoyed reading in the middle of winter.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Okay so this one is a bit of a ride and very sweary, violent and dark, but it spoke to the part of me that loves dark fantasy and gothic horror. It’s basically a locked tomb mystery with swords, creepiness, lots of blood, many deaths, and LGBT+ rep. It took a few pages to get into but it takes off not long after you get used to the anti-hero vibes.
This is how it’s described in the blurb: ‘Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.’ I suppose you decide if you dare to read it!
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
Mooncakes is a graphic novel about a teenage witch who lives with her magical aunts in their magical bookshop (where they have a secret spell book library in the back). As a family, they investigate any strange supernatural occurrences in their town together. I loved this also because it has deaf representation – the main character Nova Huang wears hearing aids.
One night, Nova investigates reports of a white wolf in the woods, and comes across her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a demon: ‘As a genderqueer werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home. Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.’
The art is lovely and so is the story!
Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree
A fantasy slice-of-life novel where Viv the Orc decides to start a new life after years of being worn out by the life of a warrior, by purchasing a shop and making it into a cafe with her favourite new discovery – coffee. Setting up isn’t easy, with a city that has never had a coffee shop, and her past visiting in the form of someone’s grudge and bid for vengeance, along with the underbelly of Thune, the place she settles in.
This is very much a found-family with self-reinvention novel, with a side of fantasy and a sprinkle of romance. I really enjoyed this and it’s definitely a cosy read with plenty of coffee and cake!
Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes
A space adventure opera with a side of psychic cats, a kidnapping, a shadowy syndicate, and a foul-mouthed captain, Eva Innocente, who does things her own way with heart underneath it all. I’ve heard that Chilling Effect is sort of based on Mass Effect (the game), but I haven’t played it so have no idea how much of it tallies. But I really enjoyed reading this – I’ve recently started reading more Sci-Fi after picking up Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers space opera series last year.
I’m a big Star Wars fan but like the side stories too – Rogue One and The Mandalorian as examples – so Sci-Fi with more space adventure and interesting characters are what I enjoy more than very complicated scientific theories or too many characters.
Other fiction books I’ve particularly loved so far are:
- The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangdu Mandanna. A witchy romance with sunny meets grumpy protagonists.
- Hex Appeal by Kate Johnson.
- Book Lovers by Emily Henry (also recommend all her romance novels!).
- The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno Garcia (very different feel to all her other novels, but that’s to be expected as every novel she writes is different – but this is akin to a regency romance novella type of read, with a bit of magic).
- The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu. Set in Edinburgh, magic, necromancers, a secret magic library.
- The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams.
Non-fiction books worth mentioning so far:
Drama Queen by Sara Gibbs
This is Sara Gibb’s autobiography about growing up autistic, her relationship with her parents and in particular her father, and how burning out led to her diagnosis:
‘During the first thirty years of her life, comedy script writer Sara Gibbs had been labelled a lot of things – a cry baby, a scaredy cat, a spoiled brat, a weirdo, a show off – but more than anything else, she’d been called a Drama Queen. No one understood her behaviour, her meltdowns or her intense emotions. She felt like everyone else knew a social secret that she hadn’t been let in on; as if life was a party she hadn’t been invited to. Why was everything so damn hard? Little did Sara know that, at the age of thirty, she would be given one more label that would change her life’s trajectory forever. That one day, sitting next to her husband in a clinical psychologist’s office, she would learn that she had never been a drama queen, or a weirdo, or a cry baby, but she had always been autistic.’
Although I couldn’t relate to everything Sara wrote about, especially since she’s much more extroverted than I am, and I realised in some ways that I had been sheltered from a lot of difficulties that I might otherwise have experienced because of the support I got for being deaf. But this was funny, sad, enlightening, and most of all an exercise in acceptance and defying the labels we are given.
The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
The Outrun is a raw yet beautiful meditation on how our connection to nature and place can bring us back to hope and often help us heal. Amy Liptrot struggled with addiction, and this is her ode to the Orkney Islands, where she grew up and eventually returned to after her struggles with alcohol addiction. Reconnecting to the nature and wild weather of the Orkney Islands helped her to find herself again, to exorcise her demons, and find a way to connect with herself.
This is probably one of the best memoirs I’ve read. It was compelling, difficult, but ultimately healing and hopeful. Amy also has a new book out, the second memoir that follows on from this one, The Instant, which is about love, the moon, and the flight patterns of migratory birds. I’m looking forward to reading it!
Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West: Love Letters
This is a collection of letters and diary entries tracing the love between Virginia and Vita. My review at the time was: ‘I loved reading Vita and Virginia’s letters to each other – so full of life, love, friendship, sadnesses, joys. It’s a privilege to be able to see two vital minds meeting in this way, and to catch a glimpse of their lives. It was perhaps one of the most emotionally engaging collection of letters I’ve read (so far). There is also much complexity in their relationship – and the lives they both led, which defies any neat category – as it should be. It made me want to re-read Orlando and go back to reading Woolf’s works again.’
It also made me long to start writing letters again!
There we have it – I’ve read some excellent books and hope that continues to the end of the year. I’m looking forward to also finishing the books I’m currently reading too!
This post is part of NanoPoblano, a Cheer Peppers production! If you’d like to see what other people are writing and sharing, please click the image below.