Top 5 Wednesday: 2018 Reading Resolutions

The first T5W of 2018 is about our reading goals for the next year. I don’t usually do this kind of thing, but it was actually interesting to sit and think about where I want my reading to take me over the next 12 months. T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

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1) Read more. In 2017 I read 38 books, but a lot of these were from my degree, when I had to sit and read them really quickly. When I don’t have that kind of deadline, it usually takes me 2-4 weeks to read a book. I want to spend more of my spare time reading, as I’ve not been spending as much time doing it as I used to.

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2) Read some classics. After spending 3 years slogging through classics (most of which I wouldn’t have chosen myself) I got kind of fed up of them and haven’t touched them since I finished my degree in June 2017. Months later, I finally feel like reading them of my own free will! So I want to get back into some classics of my own choosing this year.

3) Time for some contemporary. I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, and would like to read a few more contemporary/general fiction books.

4) Review the books I read. I don’t get round to reviewing a lot of the books I read. This year I want to blog reviews of as many of them as I can. I enjoy thinking about what I’ve read and sharing my thoughts, so really I ought to do it more.

5) Take a chance on me. With the Mamma Mia Here We Go Again trailer coming out, this song just popped into my head. I want to take a chance on books more this year. I want to not just keep reading safe books by authors or in genres I know I love. I want to step out of my comfort zone and read some books I’m not sure whether I’ll like, because I might just find a gem I might not have looked at otherwise.

Books I Want to Read in 2018

I don’t usually plan what I’m going to read. I like to see what takes my fancy. But these are some of the books I am desperate to read in 2018.

Series I want to continue

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Ringer by Lauren Oliver: The concept of this series – having the two stories in one – really caught my attention, but it’s also the story and characters that make me want to read the next book.

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare: After finally getting round to reading the first book in Clare’s Infernal Devices series at the end of 2017, I am excited to read the second in the series!

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo: I enjoyed the first and second books in this trilogy, so am eager to read the final instalment. I hope it makes a good ending.

 

Series I want to start

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Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin: As soon as I read the blurb for this book, I wanted to read it. It’s been sat on my kindle for a few months but I just haven’t got round to it yet. I will definitely be reading it in 2018 though!

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Mass: Another one that has been sat on my kindle for a while. I’ve heard so much about this series and there are quite a few books in it now. I really should get around to reading it.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer: I have wanted to read this book since it first came out, and have finally got a copy. I haven’t read many fairy tale retellings, but this one caught my eye. Combining a fairy tale retelling with sci-fi just sounds like something I would love. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

 

Classics I want to read

After reading so many classics during my degree, I had really had enough of them by the time I’d finished. Now I have reached the point where I feel ready to get back into reading some classics in 2018.

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The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins: Having enjoyed the TV adaptation of The Moonstone, I am interested in reading one of Wilkie Collins’ works.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: Eventually I will read all of Austen’s novels. So far, I have ticked off Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility. I’m planning to read Mansfield Park next.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy: I read Tess of the D’Urbervilles a few years ago and loved it. I was totally enchanted by Hardy’s style of writing.

 

What are you looking forward to reading in 2018?

Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

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Dracula by Bram Stoker

Genre: Gothic, Classics

Publishing Info: 2011 by Penguin Classics, Hardback Clothbound (first published 1897)

Pages: 454

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

The vampire novel that started it all, Bram Stoker’s Dracula probes deeply into human identity, sanity, and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire. When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries about his client. Soon afterward, disturbing incidents unfold in England—an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby, strange puncture marks appear on a young woman’s neck, and a lunatic asylum inmate raves about the imminent arrival of his “Master”—culminating in a battle of wits between the sinister Count and a determined group of adversaries.

Dracula is a long book, and although my interest in it waned and revived at various points, my overall feeling after finishing it was that I had on the whole enjoyed it. Many a classic has told a lacklustre tale of Victorian families, but throw vampires into the mix and you get an altogether more captivating read. I have the Penguin Classics hardback clothbound edition, which is of lovely quality, with thick and smooth pages.

The novel is written in an epistolary form, using a mixture of diary entries, letters, telegrams and newspaper articles, told from a variety of viewpoints. This is something which not every reader will like. The book is constantly switching between narrators and between the different written pieces (letters, diaries etc.), something which I had expected to dislike. However, because it moved around a lot between different characters, and so different stories (until the various threads become intertwined later in the book), I think that prevented me from becoming bored with it. Often when narrators switch too often it feels disjointed, but this format works for this book, as the patchwork of letters and journal entries is itself an element of the plot.

All was going well, until the latter half of the book when the male characters began to emphasise ridiculously one of the female characters ‘femaleness’ and how they didn’t want her to witness the terrible, vampire-y things going on. This went on quite persistently in ridiculous volume for a couple of chapters. Now, obviously women were viewed by society in a particular way in the Victorian period, so this isn’t exactly surprising. It was how much it was emphasised through the repetitiveness with which the male characters discussed her sensitive disposition as a woman and other such phrases. It became very irritating and made me frustrated at the book, which up to that point I had been mildly enjoying. At least she proved herself to be intelligent and resourceful, despite their attitudes towards her.

The concluding section of the book when the chase of Dracula commences was exciting and kept my attention, making me want to read to the end to discover the fates of the characters. So despite some moments that dragged and my attention wavered, and the section where the woman was treated as weak, the rest of it was actually pretty good. My conclusion upon closing the cover was that I was glad to have read it. Vampires are such a prolific part of our culture, and there have been so many varied adaptations and interpretations of Dracula, that it was interesting to read the original story.

Accessible Classics

If you want to get into the classics but you go into a bookshop and are horrified by the thought of attempting to get into Dickens or War and Peace, these are some good books to start with. There are plenty of classics that aren’t too daunting, but here are a few suggestions from a mixture of time periods and genres.

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 ‘Older’ Classics:

Jane Austen – This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like a good period drama, it might be worth giving an Austen novel a go. Pride and Prejudice is probably the most famous, but there are also Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park.

Around the World in Eighty Days – Don’t go into it expecting it to be like the Jackie Chan film which, while keeping the basic plot, embellished it rather dramatically.

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Gothic Fiction:

Frankenstein – The ‘myth’ of Frankenstein’s monster has changed and developed so much over the years that most people don’t know the original story. It is a surprisingly easy read.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – I didn’t realise how short this is before I purchased it, at around 70 pages.

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20th Century Classics:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – You may have read this as a child, but if you haven’t it isn’t too late to delve into the imaginative and quirky world of Lewis Carrol.

The Bell Jar – Probably the most famous novel on depression and an incredibly important book in the history of mental illness in literature.

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Detective Fiction:

Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock Holmes is the most famous detective around. Doyle wrote four novels and many short stories centred on the famous detective. These books are very easy to read and the mystery keeps you hooked. The published order of his novels are: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear.

Agatha Christie – Some of the best are considered The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and The ABC Murders, but there are plenty of them to choose from.

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Science Fiction:

Fahrenheit 451 – This novel imagines a world in which books are burnt and although not as well-known as 1984, is a captivating and thought-provoking read.

Animal Farm – A political and satirical novella, this is a must read if you are interested in the classic science fiction genre.

(other science-fiction choices: 1984, Brave New World, Flowers for Algernon)

Book Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Genre: Detective Fiction

Publishing Info: September 2013 by Not Avail (first published 1926)

Pages: 305

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected that she was being blackmailed. Then came the news that she had taken her own life. But, before he found all the clues, he was murdered.

This was my first time dipping into the world of Agatha Christie’s novels. The detective story can be rather formulaic but this one diverges from the formula in an interesting way which makes it stand out from the usual mould. I can’t disclose any more on that front without completely ruining the book. It’s the twist that really makes the story. Until I got to the twist it was a fairly standard affair.

Christie writes good stories, but her writing isn’t exactly inspiring. The writing is pretty basic but I guess that makes it an easy read that will suite some. That’s the thing about these kind of novels, they’re the sort you read casually on the train or on holiday.

The characters are your standard mix of suspects and investigators with nobody particularly different, unusual or interesting. The setting as well is the typical country town. But if this is the kind of read you’re looking for then this isn’t a problem, it’s what you’d expect from a Christie.

This is one of those books that now I know what happens and what the twist is I may reread it at some point because it would be completely different reading it a second time with that knowledge. Obviously I can’t compare it to other Christie novels as this is my first but I’d say it was a pretty good one. It’s all about the twist at the end though. I didn’t find the build up to it that exciting.