2016 Wrap Up – The Books I Loved Most

So according to my Goodreads account I read…. 32 books. Which is good, but still I wish I’d had the time and motivation to read more (and some of them were even rereads because sometimes you want to curl up with the characters you already love). However, it looks like between work and Christmas I will not be able to squeeze another read into my 2016. Though I will hopefully find time to finish The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (you know, all 700 pages…).
There have been some great novels, some I haven’t even gotten around to buying yet but that’s all things to look forward to in 2017! I decided instead of a review I would write a wrap up of all the books that really made an impact on me this year.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab 

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This book… I read it to get myself out of a reading slump during Easter and it quickly became one of my all-time favourites. It has magic, intrigue, danger, and morally questionable characters you can’t help but love. Schwab brings to life some fantastically intriguing concepts, I love the idea of multiple intertwining Londons all steeped in different levels of magic that only the antari can travel between. Though the plot is amazing, I think it’s the characters that really shine in this novel and make it one I’d happily read twenty times over.

A Court of Mist of Fury by Sarah J Maas

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This book blew up the internet (or tumblr, where I practically live) and while I knew of the first one I wasn’t bothered about reading it before. Unpopular opinion time! I’m not a big fan of Throne of Glass, while Maas clearly has talent, I just didn’t connect with her characters so I was reluctant to read her new series. Until curiosity got the better of me. The first one was a bit… meh. It took me till Feyre went Under The Mountain to really get into the story, the romance was lacklustre and Tamlin was useless. But thank god I carried on, this sequel made powering through the first worth it. The characters are entertaining, the plot is intense and do I really need to mention Rhysand?

Days of Blood and Starlight  by Laini Taylor

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This book is on the list simply because I didn’t want to read it. I don’t know what it was about the first one but I just didn’t get the hype, and I wasn’t bothered about continuing it. However I forced myself to read it and see if I could find what everyone else had been seeing in this series and was pleasantly surprised! Don’t you love it when that happens? Taylor seemed to kick everything up a gear and suddenly I was hooked. We delved deeper into Karou’s twisted world of angels and demons and the stakes were much higher than they were before. I also found Karou and Akiva’s romance a lot more interesting in this book than I did the first, maybe because they spent most of the novel apart, growing and learning and changing. That’s always a plus.

This Savage Song by V.E.Schwab

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Yet another book from Schwab. I just like her writing okay? It’s so immersive and effortless. This is a novel about monsters, ones that are created from every terrible thing people do. Pretty snazzy idea right? August Flynn doesn’t think so, he’s a monster that wants to be human, while Kate Harker is a human trying to be more monstrous. Even though they’re on opposite sides of a war, August and Kate are thrown together and suddenly have to depend on each other for survival. This novel is filled with deep beautiful quotes (literally everywhere), and brings up some thought-provoking questions about humanity in a fun-filled fantasy kinda way.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo 

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There are no words to describe my love for this duology. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom have been some of the best books I’ve read in a while and if you haven’t read it yet, get to it! You won’t regret it. Kaz Brekker, a well-known criminal, is tasked with assembling a team to break into the most secure place in their world. Crooked Kingdom continues their journey in the aftermath of the cliffhanger Bardugo left us with. These novels are just so clever and intense. You’re sat on the edge of your seat the whole time wondering if they are all going to make it, how they will get out of it now, will these goddamn couples ever get their acts together?! Every time you think you’ve got it figured out, Bardugo is ten steps ahead with twelve twists waiting in the wings. I love it, and I just really really love the dregs and all their growth, and backstory, and badassery.

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

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I heard about this book from Booktube, people were raving about it so I thought I’d give it a go. I had never really read an adult fantasy novel before, they just always seemed so intimidating, and the YA section has always held a tight grip on my heart. Now I’m prepared to read more in this section because this was just amazing. In a world where the Dark Lord won and turned the world into a dark empire, who else could try to overturn him but a ragtag bunch of criminals? The world that Sanderson created was just so detailed and precise, it was unlike anything I had ever read. Especially the magic system, where people called mistborns and mistings can ingest a certain set of metals and burn them for different powers. I would try and go into more detail but I can’t, it’s so well thought out and complicated that I would just sound silly. If this is the last book I actually complete in 2016 I’m okay to end on such a high.

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My Top 10 Books That I Couldn’t Live Without.

Book recommendations are always helpful for those stuck in a rut, so I decided to do my own post about my favourite books/series. Most of these are Young Adult novels, and that’s just because the world that these authors create are so diverse, detailed, exciting, and often challenge conventions that people seem to just accept. There is something unique about all of these books and have stuck with me ever since I first cracked them open.

I’m going to list them in no particular order, since I’ve tried to do so before and I just couldn’t. It’s like choosing your favourite child!

1. Darkest Powers Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong 

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I bought these books on a whim when I found them online and thought the premise sounded cool; I was in a paranormal faze but had gotten sick of the vampire element. It’s the first story (aside from Harry Potter) that truly stayed with me. Chloe Saunders is a 15 year old girl whose life gets turned around the day she sees her first ghost. Deemed mentality ill, Chloe is sent to a group home. Though at first it seems as if it is just like any other home, secrets surround her and slowly she comes to realise that she might not be the only one there who shouldn’t be.
My favourite has to be the second one for all the development that occurs throughout, and how we finally get right into the supernatural element and Chloe exploring her powers. It has the perfect harmony of the supernatural, science, mystery and a romance that isn’t shoved in your face and produced one of my favourite couples to date.

2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer 

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I have spoken about the first book, Cinder, on my blog before and how much I love it. The rest of the series is no different. Each adds a new fairy tale inspired character to Linh Cinder’s story, starting with Scarlet and Wolf (Red Riding Hood or as some people pointed out they could be Beauty and the Beast), Cress and Thorne (Rapunzel) and finally Winter and Jacin (Snow White). All of these characters are wonderfully developed, widely diverse and integrate perfectly with each other. Thought the plot is amazing I think I love these books so much because of the characters that Meyer has created, they are reason enough to read them.
When cyborg Linh Cinder meets Prince Kai, she has no idea that it’ll start to unravel a sequence of events that will put her at the heart of the conflict against the Lunar Queen, Levana. With powers that can manipulate what people see and do the Queen seems up stoppable, but Cinder comes to realise she’s not as helpless as people would believe her to be.  Combining fairy tales with a futuristic setting, humour and danger, these books easily make my top ten.

3. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardigo 

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I had heard the hype around Bardigo’s Grisha Trilogy for a while and never got round to reading them, but I couldn’t ignore how intriguing Six of Crows sounded. Fantasy universe? Check. Morally grey characters who are equally lovable? Check. An impossible heist? CHECK! This book is so clever, I could never predict what was going to happen and even thought some of the characters (Kaz) did some pretty disturbing stuff you can’t help but love them.
When Kaz, criminal mastermind, is approached by Jan Van Eck to help break into the most secure location in their world and make him richer than he ever could of dreamed of he doesn’t hesitate. He assembles a team that all has their own reasons for wanting the reward money and their own pasts to hide. It’s hard to describe this novel because there is so much detail hidden within.

4. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

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I did not expect to love this book as much as I did, V. E. Schwab made such a captivating and fabulous world that I literally could not put this book down. Both because of the plot and the amazing characters. Kell is an antari, one of the last magicians with the ability to travel between worlds. From his home in Red London filled with magic, to Grey London where it is lacking, to the savage starving White London where people will do anything for magic.Then there’s Black London, a world that was ravaged by magic and blocked off from the rest of the parallel worlds. This book is filled with magic, thieves, danger and even a splash of humour to balance it out.
I’m a sucker for good characters with fun and interest relationships, and Kell, Lila and Rhy might be some of the best I’ve read so far. A total must read for lovers of fantasy, adventure and just general good literature.

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 

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I had to put this one the list, it’s my favourite classic novel and the only one I’ve willing read again after studying it for my A Levels. It is the ultimate from Enemies to Friends to Lovers novel, and who doesn’t love that trope? Most people of course know that story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy so I don’t think I really need to say what it’s about to much.
There’s complex family relationships, an intriguing romance, lies, betrayal, drama (though I’m sure Lydia running away with a man would’ve been more dramatic in the 1800s, whereas nowadays… not so much). The characters grow and develop in a believing way, Lizzie lets go of her prejudices and learns that things aren’t always as they appear and Darcy learns not be so proud and that saying how you hate a girls family is not the way to propose. I just love this novel.

6. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

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Another novel that I’ve reviewed, but this is probably my favourite fantasy novel so it deserves a place on this list. There’s dragons that can take the form of humans, conflict, fun friendships and a subtle but sweet romance.The prose of this book is flawless, Hartman writes like no one else I’ve read and the musical element in the story creates some truly beautiful moments.
Dragons and humans have been living in peace for 40 years, or they are supposed to have been but relations are still uneasy between them. Humans are scared, dragons see humans and they’re emotions are frivolous and Seraphina is stuck in the middle of it all, hiding her half-dragon identity. But when problems between the two races start to grow, Seraphina finds herself in the middle of the investigation to find out just who is trying to break the treaty, and all without anyone finding out her true nature.

7. Penryn and the End of Days by Susan Ee

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I read this series while on holiday last year and devoured them within 3 days; granted they’re not overly long but they don’t need to be. Penryn lives in a post-apocalyptic world where angels have destroyed her life as she knew it, she only had one motivation – protect her wheelchair bound sister Paige. And when Paige is taken by the angels, she is determined to get her back even if that means teaming up with one of them. Penryn is dragged into a conflict and a cover up that had affected the whole world, and for some reason people think she’s the saviour that will rid the world of angels.
This series has one of the most kick-ass, sassy female protagonists that I’ve ever come across. Penryn is loyal, knows how to fight and brave, though she’s still a young girl and of course often wonders about her love interest. However this isn’t a bad thing, their relationship is built up in such a way it adds to the story rather than distracts from it. The book is dark, brings up a few deep questions about what makes a human and shows the real gritty world post-apocalypse. I couldn’t put down this fast paced series.

8. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

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This is my favourite non-fantasy novel. It was the first Dessen novel I read and it’s still by far my favourite. This coming of age story has a range of interesting characters that are probably some of Dessen’s best. It’s about truth, facing up to the fact you don’t have to do everything alone, healing and the relationships we build. It’s a easy read that I still enjoy even now.
Annabel Greene used to be popular, until the summer when everything changed, now she’s friendless, quiet and can’t get through confrontations with her ex-best friend Sophie and Sophie’s boyfriend without hurling. Annabel is finally pulled out of her lonely shell by starting up an unexpected friendship with resident angry boy Owen Armstrong. Though there’s somethings she needs to face before she can finally move on.

9. Finding Sky (Benedict Brother’s Trilogy) by Joss Stirling

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English-born Sky can’t remember her childhood and anything she does she pushes away. She is determined to make a new life in Colorado with her adoptive parents, instead she gets on the bad side of the school bad boy Zed Benedict, and sometimes she thinks she can hear him talking in her mind. Until after one encounter Zed’s claiming he can see the future and that she has powers too.. and that she’s his other half – his soulfinder. Sky is thrust into a world she does know and is forced to face her hidden past as she is pushed to the centre of a dark conflict. She either has to accept her powers or run away, and she’s not sure she’d brave enough for either.
This trilogy follows a different Benedict brother finding his soulfinder in each book, they’re fun, sweet, romantic with enough of a dangerous edge to keep things interesting. Finding Sky is definitely my favourite, but each pairing in these books are captivating.

10. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstren 

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I heard of this book a lot before I decided to read it, and I’m so glad I did! The Night Circus is about an unusual circus that turns up unannounced filled with wonders that never fail to captivate it’s audience – wonders created by magic. But behind the curtains a fierce competition is happening between 2 illusionists for whom everything hangs in the balance, for only one will be left standing when the game is up. Neither Marco nor Celia want to be part of the game anymore and prefer to work together, but they are not in control of the game and their actions risk the lives of everyone they love and everything they hold dear.
This book is so beautiful. The prose was captivating and the circus so well written even I want to go! Though it took me a moment to fully understand what was going on as book does not go chronologically, once I did I was hooked. Magical, dangerous and mysterious. I think it might be time for a reread.

Bonus! 

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When I was taken the photos I couldn’t not include this one, the tales that inspired so many of my favourite fairy tales. This copy is just beautiful and it’s always great to read the originals.

 

What’s all this about then?

I’m Stephanie Goulden and I’m just finishing my final year at university studying Creative Writing and English Literature. So it should be pretty obvious my passion is books; reading books, writing books, just generally holding them. I think that someone should seriously try to bottle the smell of books if they haven’t already. I’d buy it in a heartbeat and use it for air freshener. My book shelves have been through so much rearrangement I can’t even remember where I put everything originally.

It’s come to a time in my life where I’m not entirely sure what the next step for me is. I’ve never been sure what I want to do. Well, not specifically.  I’ve always known I want to write but I like to think I’m realistic enough to realise that unless I create the next hit, it’s unlikely that I can live completely off the novels I plan to produce. All I know is I want to work with books, publishing them, selling them, doing something where I can be surrounded by the thing that I love; stories. Yet, it has also come to my attention that this is also not so easy. You need contacts and experience and I haven’t had much a chance at either. Not yet.

Something all the careers advisors I’ve seen have told me is how beneficial it is to have a blog. Somewhere you can put yourself out there, somewhere you can put your writing so that people can get an idea of you and your style.

So this is what I’m doing. Mind you, it won’t really be about me. I don’t think I have too much going on in my life that’s interesting enough for people to want to read. That’s probably why I write, it definitely makes for more interesting reading than my regular routine. But maybe I’ll find something to talk about…

I’m going to be using this space to write book reviews. My opinions shall be laid out for the world. Which is scary when you think about it.

It will mainly be Young Adult novels since I’m in a faze of reading them. Covering a wide range of genres, but right at this moment, it’s fairy tale retelling’s and the fantasy genre that has my attention. I may include a couple of books I’ve read for my course; classics and novels that I’ve never heard of outside the seminar rooms.

I doubt I’ll ever completely leave the YA section of the storytelling world. The YA section of a book store has more diversity than I think people realise. These novels deal with real life issues in a way that makes them relatable and engaging to younger readers (and older ones). Not to mention how many young women are presented as the heroes of these stories – Katniss Everdeen probably being one of the most famous examples. There was an interview with Lindsey Morgan from The 100 that I saw floating around that really stuck out for me where she said – “say what you want about young-adult fiction, I don’t care, you’re opening up doors for females to be action stars.” And well… she’s not wrong. I love the agency that young women are given in these novels and I hope to be able to replicate it in my own fiction.

And so that’s probably enough of me for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up this blog as I’m about to hit a very busy time in my university career. Fingers crossed!