11 Jan 2016

Last Year's Book Favourites and my 2015 Reading Rut

As far reading goes for me, 2015 was a fail. My goal for the year was to read 50 books, but I only managed 27. My downfall was losing out on what are usually my prime reading periods: the summer and November through to December. Summer to me usually signifies the end of exams, and what following seeming like an endless period of lounging around with a high pile of books by my bedside. But unfortunately as I had gotten ill at the end of the academic year all my assessments were pushed to the summer. Meaning any spare time during the summer months were eaten up by revision, and the stack of books beside my bed were to only consist of university re-reads. Then usually when November rolls around I usually become hyper aware of the year drawing to the end, and I always speed up my reading to ensure I get through as many books as possible before the year is out. But once again, things didn't go to plan. Certain issues came up in my life at the tail end of the year that resulted in me reading a grand total of 0 books in November and December combined.

Yes, I'm dishearten that I wasn't able to get through as many books as I desired this past year, but I'm crossing my fingers that I'll make up for lost time in 2016. And 'more importantly' I still managed to find a few books I absolutely love this year, and here they are:

The Potion Diaries/Madly by Amy Alward
'There are some things that are just as strong - no - stronger than love potions you know. Like real feelings.'

This summer I attended the Young Adult Literature Convention in London, and during my time there I picked up a few books from authors who were in appearance at the event. The Potion Diaries was one that caught my eye, and after purchasing it and then swiftly getting it signed by the author I quickly found out that Amy Alward herself was lovely, but still didn't have much idea of what to expect from the book itself. But once I took the book home to read it didn't take long for me to decide that I infact loved it. In the story we are introduced to the Princess of Nova who is making a love potion to gain admiration from the man she desires - except she accidentally proceeds to take the potion herself and falls for her own reflection. The results of this error are catastrophic, and so talented alchemist prodigy Samantha is called upon with the task to come up with an antidote for the Princess. We then follow Sam and friends as they travel far and wide to procure the ingredients for the antidote before it is too late; crossing mystical lands and places of extreme peril along their journey. Alward builds a fantastical and intricate world which is impossible not to get fully immersed into. Every night for a week I would crawl into bed and open up this book, excited to resume the adventures I was experiencing along with the book's characters. The Potion Diaries is the first in a series and I eagerly await the release of the next instalment!

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley - Doyle
'Accidents happen. Our bones shatter, our skin splits, our hearts break. We burn, we drown, we stay alive.'

I feel like this may be the book I've been waiting for my whole Young Adult life. I purchased this at the Young Adult Literature Convention this year also, and with such beautiful cover art there was no way I wasn't going to buy it. With the cover in mind, along with the buzz about the book being heard all around the convention centre, I certainly expected the book to be very good, but I wasn't prepared for it to turn out to be one of my favourite books of all time. Dark, eerie, poignant and beautifully written, The Accident Season transports you to the strange world of highschool girl Cara, whose family members, including herself, inexplicably experience a series of increasingly severe accidents every October. And if that wasn't strange enough, this particular October sees Cara's old childhood friend and classmate, Elsie (who has a habit of appearing in every single photo Cara has ever taken), mysteriously go missing. Weirder yet, everyone other than Cara struggles to remember much about Elsie at all. Throw in a drunken Halloween ball in an abandoned house, taking place towards the climax of the story - a ball where everyone is told to come as their true selves; who they are behind their human masks -  and a taboo love story interwoven throughout the book, and The Accident Season cements itself as one of the greatest dark teen novels written to this day. And also one that's not afraid to go places that a lot of other Young Adult books wouldn't dream of going. The book is a page turner filled with unexpected twists and mystery, but it's also so much more than mindless entertainment. By the end of the story you'll be aware of how truly poignant and incredibly smart the book really is, and has always been right from the first page.

Mean Boys and Memories by Stephanie Matto
'One thing that I constantly remind myself is it's okay to make mistakes. Very rarely do you do something and it turns out exactly as planned. Life is about trial and error. Your experiences, your mistakes, and your successes are what mould and shape you into the unique and beautiful person you are.'

As an avid fan of Youtube I'm forever searching for new Youtubers to add to my subscription list, and in 2015 I discovered Stepanka who became a fast favourite. Not long after I had started watching her videos she announced that she was releasing a self published book, and as I found the stories in her videos so compelling I knew I would be buying her book upon release without hesitation. In all honestly, I didn't have much expectation about the book itself other than wanting to learn more about her life from it, but from the first paragraph I was immediately enthralled and knew that the book was surpassing my expectations. Mean Boys and Memories is an autobiography told through the stories of all of Stephanie's relationships and romantic interests, from her teens through adulthood - each chapter centering on a different relationship and thus a different chapter in her life. And she's not afraid to include every gory detail either! Stephanie is a very talented writer and story teller and the book, though autobiographical, almost read as a novel, due to it's depth and the realness of the characters represented. One that you can't put down for the constant need of wanting to know what happens next (also one that is hilarious in parts!). Not only was the book a great read but it also resonated with me on a personal level. Many stories of heartbreak, disappointment and even abuse lie in the pages of the book, all unfortunately things that I could relate to. But as a result the book left me feeling that I wasn't alone with my experiences and nor feelings surrounding them. Stephanie also managed to put a positive spin on her experiences by the end of the book, leaving the reader uplifted, inspired and confident that challenges in life and love can be dealt with and over come, and that we can grow stronger and wiser because of them. I know that Stephanie is planning on writing more in the future and I can't wait to read what else she has to offer!

What were your 2015 book favourites?

Amani x

4 Jan 2016

December '15 In Pictures

I hope that everyone had a great December and is settling nicely into January. Here's what the last month of 2015 looked like for me:

Pretty Christmas lights in Nottingham
 At the beginning of the month I went to my first East Midlands Bloggers meetup, which was lovely. I also got to see Lincoln for the first time in the process. 
Lovely Christmas goody bag I received at the meetup!
A jester in Lincoln and me home in my kitchen!
 Disney Christmas tree in King's Cross station! (I travelled a lot between the East Midlands and London this month!)
Twilight back home in Hampstead, London
A light pub lunch
A Chrsitmassy pub and some Christmas presents at my grandma's house 
 Gingerbread man cookie cutters 
Me and my mum's mini Christmas tree
Fairy lights in Hampstead
My Christmas look and our Christmas dinner!
Prosecco & raspberry pana cotta and mince pies for dessert on Christmas Day
Me chilling with some Stormtroopers and me in my pyjamas after a long day  
Pretty pastel buildings in Hampstead
 Trees on a sunny winter's day in Hampstead Heath

Amani x
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