2017 Roundup

Perhaps you’ll have noticed from my silence on the blog that 2017 wasn’t a particular good year for reading for me. I didn’t get anywhere near my Goodreads goal and also didn’t manage to succeed in the British Books Challenge goal either. I’m a little disappointed, especially when there were so many books released in 2017 that I wanted to read. But, over the last few weeks I’ve been seeing a lot of people say that they too weren’t too happy with how much they read during 2017 either. So, I thought, let’s put this into perspective and instead look at just a few of the amazing books which I did read in 2017 and look forward to what I could do better in 2018!

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After hearing about it for the first time in December 2016, one of my standout booksfrom this year was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. It’s such a standout novel, and I knew it would be from the moment I heard about it for the first time. It’s, as John Green on the cover suggests, stunning. I left the book feeling bowled over by how powerful it has the potential to be. I can’t really do it justice, even months after I read it, so I absolutely encourage you if you haven’t already got a copy, for whatever reason, make it one of the first books of 2018 you buy. You won’t regret it – I’d consider it essential reading for so many people.

john_green_turtles_all_the_way_down_book_coverOne of my more recent reads was, speaking of John Green, Turtles All The Way Down.We’ve waited a long time for a new book from John, and it’s finally here – the tale of Aza and her friendship with Davis, whose millionaire dad has gone on the run, leaving his whole estate behind to a tuatara. It’s classic John Green, with emotions everywhere, little trickles of philosophical insights scattered throughout the novel and characters who you leave feeling like you know them after finishing the book. Again, I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of this book. It’s really a heartwarming read.

the_loneliest_girlAnd, readers of the blog will know that I’m a massive fan of Lauren James’ books, and 2017 gave us a new one from her too; the absolutely incredible ‘The Loneliest Girl in the Universe.’ I was completely blown away by what seems like a completely unworkable concept, but in reality creates a phenomenal book that I guarantee you you’ll read in maybe a maximum of two sittings. I don’t think I want you to read just this book, I think I want you to go out and read Lauren’s back catalogue – if you’re new to YA or even sci-fi, as I wasn’t that big a fan of the genre before I read it, The Next Together is an amazing place to start for either category of books. Then read The Last Beginning and The Loneliest Girl. It’s well worth it.

Going forward into 2018, I’m setting a more moderate goal for myself on Goodreads and setting myself a goal of 20 books. I think that it’s far more achievable than the 50 I set myself last year, though I definitely would still like to beat it. I’m looking to diversify the books I read, and can’t wait to read all of the brand new voices which are arriving in YA this year. I’m going to give the British Books Challenge another go in 2018 as well – I’m a little sad that I didn’t manage to crack it last year, but I’m giving it a go this year as well. And I hope to blog a lot more in 2018 as well, so hopefully you’ll hear a lot more from me in weeks and months to come. I’m certainly looking forward to it.

What are your reading resolutions? Did you have a good 2017? What are you going to do differently in 2018? Let me know what you think in the comments! 

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Culling Books

Every so often a bookworm is forced to take a good long look at their shelf and realise that actually, they have way too many books. Amber from The Mile Long Bookshelf wrote a great blog post that made me think, on New Year’s Day 2018 as I write this, the time had come to really cull my own book collection. I thought I’d write a quick little blog post just to sum up some thoughts on it.

In a nutshell, it’s actually quite difficult. You’re forced to look at a lot of books which you’ve either bought over the years or accrued in other means, and decide which ones you’re going to get rid of. In the end, I started using three key criterion to decide which ones I wanted to get rid of.

  • Am I ever likely to read this book again? If yes, keep it. If not, chuck it.
  • Have I got another copy of this book? For instance, I have two copies of The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. I don’t need two, even though it’s a phenomenal book. So, unfortunately you have to be brutal and get rid of duplicate copies in order to make space for more wonderful stories. It’s nothing personal towards Jandy, you understand?
  • Did I actually enjoy this book? I’ve got quite a few books on my shelves which I haven’t actually enjoyed that much. This seems fairly self-explanatory – it’s impossible to love every single book that comes my way, so some it just makes sense to get rid of.

As someone with books sitting about in most places, I managed to get to a total of 61 books which I was prepared to get rid of (and 61 is a rather big total for me!), ready to create just a bit more space on my shelves. What to do with them though?

Well, in the past my go to option for books has been to give them either to a charity shop or to my local library, which is always happy to accept donations and rest assured there’s some books which I’ve culled which will be going there. There are websites which are willing to buy books you don’t want from you as well, and I’m shipping a few off to them as well to make space on my shelves too.

There are plenty more places which are willing to accept donations of books, and I’m sure local primary schools would be willing to accept as well, so this is where I refer you to Amber’s post, linked above, for a far more comprehensive look at how to do this properly. However, I will say I do in fact encourage book culling. You’ll look at your shelves afterwards and notice how much space you have now to welcome in brand new titles, and there are plenty coming this year that you’re going to want to give rightfully deserved space on your shelves.

And rest assured, you’ll be giving someone else the chance to enjoy the books that perhaps you either didn’t enjoy as much as you thought you would have or you loved and have extra copies of, so you’re prepared to cling on to one as your own and instead let others enjoy the same stories. Far better than allowing them to gather dust, right?

Are you culling any books at the moment? What are you planning on doing with them? Which books coming out this year are you prepared to give space to on your shelves? Let me know in the comments! 

What would it be like not to talk? – A Quiet Kind Of Thunder by Sara Barnard

This Thursday, A Quiet Kind Of Thunder by Sara Barnard comes out. It’s a beautiful novel, telling the tale of Steffi and Rhys, a girl who can’t talk because of selective mutism and Rhys, who is deaf. They communicate largely through BSL, and it’s already one of my standout novels of 2017. I reviewed it a while ago, and I’m pretty sure I gushed enough.

But then Macmillan reached out to bloggers again and asked them to think about what it might be like not to be able to talk for a day; how we might feel if we weren’t able to communicate as well as we possibly should. I’ve really given this topic a lot of thought. It’s one that’s key to the story in A Quiet Kind Of Thunder.

In recent months, I really have become aware of how much we take the ability to talk and listen for granted. It may not feel like one to people that can, but it really is a luxury.

The British Deaf Association estimates that there are around 151,000 BSL users in the UK, and 87,000 of those are deaf. It’s worth remembering that BSL isn’t the only form of communication for deaf people; there are other forms such as lipreading, fingerspelling, notetaking, etc.* But even still, that’s a lot of people.

Language barriers have always been something that frustrates me, the idea that there are people out there who are willing to talk but I can’t or you might not be able to communicate with them. But, as someone once pointed out to me, imagine the frustration they feel.

I’m writing this post around a week before Christmas, and to me I think there are few worst times to not be able to communicate with the people around you. I imagine what Steffi must feel like, perhaps in a shopping centre. Christmas music. Trees and lights all a-glow, people laughing, performances, perhaps not even being able to effectively find Christmas gifts because you can’t ask shop assistants for help.

And if I was imagining Rhys, the Christmas music would be of no more importance to him than the rest of the sounds that he can’t hear. He might be able to talk and lipread, but no-one’s lip-speaking Michael Buble so he’s not going to be able to appreciate Buble’s idea of a White Christmas in song form.

Yet I remember that this is a reality for many. I have no doubt that Christmas for example could still be the most wonderful time of the year for deaf people and for people like Steffi. Christmas is just one example, and it may consume a month or so of our year, but remember; there’s still 11 other months in a year.

Come to really think of it, the idea of not being able to talk is a really scary one that many have to deal with every single day of their lives. So perhaps we should all try and make the world a more inclusive one for everyone, be it those who find it difficult to speak, to hear, to see, to walk, whatever challenge may be faced, it’s our collective duty to do something about it.

*These figures don’t include professional users either, such as interpreters.

(I was sent a copy of A Quiet Kind Of Thunder to review by Macmillan. My opinions on the book haven’t been affected in any way. This is not an advert, I have not been paid to write this post. My opinions are my own!)