Thursday, 29 December 2016

How I failed my #serieschallenge

At the end of 2015, I claimed that I was going to finish a series every month of 2016. I had a reading plan, I knew exactly which books I was going to read when, and there was no possibility of failure.
But I still managed to fall... And it wasn't even at the last hurdle, it was at one of the very first ones!

I am bad at finishing series. There are a lot of reasons for this:
  • I hoard friends. I try to keep in touch with everyone, and when I can't do that in real life it SUCKS. The end of a series means saying goodbye to a bunch of characters who have become your friends throughout their adventures over the years, and I just can't do it.
  • I'm scared of commitment. I look at a series as thick as Game of Thrones or as long as the House of Night series, and I have palpitations. 
  • They're always disappointing. Okay, probably not always. But this year I ACTUALLY FINISHED A.G. Howard's Splintered series, the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo and Pierce Brown's Red Rising trilogy, and all of the final installments fell flat. Some more than others: 'Ruin and Rising' RUINED the entire trilogy for me (haha, geddit?!) while 'Morning Star' only fell a little short, and still managed to get 5 stars from me. 
And those three aspects make finishing a series extremely scary. I might love the first few books and then have the third installment absolutely destroy everything, leaving me seething with barely contained rage (*cough* Divergent *cough*).
Or it can go the other way. I hated Erika Johansen's 'The Queen of the Tearling', loved the sequel 'The Invasion of the Tearling' and am currently really enjoying the final book in the series. Because I detested that first book so utterly and completely, I didn't have high expectations, which has made it a lot easier for me to read - and enjoy - the later installments.

In 2016, I finished (or caught up with the current releases of) 17 series.
I started (or started rereading) 22 series.
When you look at it like that, not too bad. A bit worse when you consider that 13 out of the 17 that I've caught up on are also 13 out of the 22 I started... That means I finished (or caught up on) 4 series that I was already reading. That's not many. Whoops.
I would have liked to have finished more series than the ones that I started, because I'm currently midway through so many that it would have made more sense.
There are so many series that I still haven't even started (Throne of Glass, The Young Elites, Shatter Me, etc.) and I'd like to finish (or at least catch up with) a few more before I start to tackle those. I'm definitely going to make more of an effort in 2017, and by the end of the year I WILL have finished all of those series I talked about last year... I hope. 

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five characters I need at my NYE party

(Top Five Wednesday was created by GingerReadsLainey. Find out more at the Goodreads group!)

I'm not organising a New Year's Eve party this year (last year's trip to the pub was lackluster and ended with half of my friends complaining, so they can sort something out for themselves!) but if I was organising a New Year's Eve party, there are quite a few characters who would deserve to receive invites.

5) The Spinster Club girls from Holly Bourne's Spinster Club series
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I haven't read all of the Spinster Club series, but with the recent release of '...And A Happy New Year', the three Spinsters - Lottie, Amber and Evie - were the first people I thought of to invite to my New Year's Eve party.

4) Hattie from 'How Not To Disappear' by Clare Furniss
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Hattie deserves a night off from her family, so I'd love to have her at my party. I can imagine she'd want to have an early night so wouldn't even stay until midnight, but I think she deserves a break!

3) Magnus Bane from Cassandra Clare's Shadowhunters world
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Who wouldn't want a flamboyant warlock at their party?! He'd probably own the room with his ridiculous and grandiose stories.

2) Peter from 'Tonight The Streets Are Ours' by Leila Sales
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I'd love to invite Peter to my party, just to see what he'd say about it on his blog! It would also distract him from thinking about Bianca, because New Year's Eve was such a poignant moment in their relationship.  

1) Mags and Noel from 'Midnights' by Rainbow Rowell
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Mags and Noel only really see each other at New Year's Eve parties, using the time to catch up on everything that's happened to them in the previous year. I ship them so hard, and I'd love to have them cuddled up on the sofa in their own world while all the other characters are partying around them.

I hope you enjoyed this Top Five Wednesday, and I hope you have a brilliant New Year! Would you want any of these characters to come to your party?

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten best books of 2016

(Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and The Bookish!)

As the end of the year draws closer, it's time to start wrapping up 2016. My ten best albums list will be coming in a couple of days, but today it's time to talk about the best books that were released in 2016 - ones that I actually read, which means there are going to be some notable exclusions that I haven't had time to pick up just yet!
I rated 15 of this year's releases as 5 star reads, so I've had to trim a few out, but I think these are the best books of 2016.

10) 'Morning Star' by Pierce Brown
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I was equal parts nervous and excited for the final installment of Pierce Brown's Red Rising trilogy, and while it wasn't everything I'd been hoping, I really enjoyed it. I can't wait for 'Iron Gold' to be released in August - it's too far away!

9) 'Unrivalled' by Alyson Noel
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I hadn't read an Alyson Noel book since the second book in The Immortals series, so I was a little nervous picking this one up. I didn't expect to fall head over heels in love with it, and I'm desperate to read the second book, 'Blacklist', as soon as it comes out. It feels more like a NA release than a YA release, and that made it stand out head and shoulders above the  rest of my 2016 reads. 

8) 'Radio Silence' by Alice Oseman
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I read 'Radio Silence' for the #SundayYA book club, and I couldn't understand why it had taken me so long to read it. I love Alice Oseman's writing style, and 'Solitaire' is one of my 2017 priority reads.

7) 'Ctrl Alt Delete: How I Grew Up Online' by Emma Gannon
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I've been reading a lot of feminist books and memoirs this year, and 'Ctrl Alt Delete' is my favourite by far. I could relate to so many of Emma's hilarious anecdotes, and if you've been using the internet for a good portion of your life I'm sure you'll see yourself reflected in her stories too. 

6) 'Paper Butterflies' by Lisa Heathfield
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Another #SundayYA book club read, I cried reading 'Paper Butterflies', and I can't remember the last time I've gotten that emotional about a book. A frank look at racism and familial abuse, it's impossible not to get sucked into June's story. 

5) 'Our Chemical Hearts' by Krystal Sutherland
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I fell in love with 'Our Chemical Hearts', and even though some of the language describing Grace's disability left me feeling uncomfortable and concerned, the overall story redeemed the novel for me. If you are one of those people who wants to 'fix' others, you'll really relate to this book. 

4) 'Nothing Tastes As Good' by Claire Hennessy
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When I read 'Nothing Tastes As Good', it was the book I needed. I'd been struggling with my eating again, an ongoing fight that's been plaguing me for at least five years, and this gave me the kick up the bum that I needed to just pick up a goddamned sandwich. This was another #SundayYA book club read - we've read some awesome title in the last few months!

3) 'You Were Here' by Cori McCarthy
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A multiple POV exploration of how grief and loss affect everyone, not just the family of the deceased. I already want to reread 'You Were Here', because I feel as though it's one of those books that will get better every time. 

2) 'This Is Where It Ends' by Marieke Nijkamp
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'This Is Where It Ends' was the first book I finished in 2016, merely an hour into the New Year, in a pub with all of my friends. That's how amazing it was: it's impossible to put it down, even when you're not supposed to be reading! 

1) 'How Not To Disappear' by Clare Furniss
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The best book of 2016 for me was 'How Not To Disappear' by Clare Furniss. It was the last #SundayYA book club pick of the year (see what I mean about us reading awesome books?!) and I LOVED it. Hattie and Gloria's stories interweave so beautifully, and while it feels like adult fiction at points it just makes it that much more beautiful. I can't recommend this book enough.

I hope you enjoyed this Top Ten Tuesday, the last one of 2016. What would you choose as the best release of 2016?

See you next year!

Monday, 26 December 2016

My #SundayYAthon TBR!

Hello everyone! I hope you all had wonderful Christmases, got everything you wanted and ate your own body weight in roast dinners, chocolates and biscuits.
Rachel from #SundayYA (@_sectumsemprah) has organised a little read-a-thon to keep everyone turning pages over the holidays, and I've decided to participate. Things are quite crazy with work, and out of the four days I'm working full days on ALL of them... It might mean that I can't get anything finished, but I'm going to try!

Rachel's challenges

  1. Read a Christmas novel: I'm going to try to read Jay Asher's 'What Light', because I've heard lots of good things about this new release. I haven't read any of Jay's other novels, so this will be a nice place to start.
  2. Read a novella: 'Unboxed' by Non Pratt. No question.
  3. Read a short story collection: This has to be 'I'll Be Home For Christmas'! For every copy sold, £1 was donated to Crisis - it's such a good cause, so I ran out and bought my copy the day it was released.
  4. Read a new book: Okay, I'm going to cheat on this one. I'm going to finish a new book, because I've been slowly chugging my way through 'The Fate of the Tearling' and I want to get it finished already!
  5. Read a book from your TBR: Well, all of the above books are on my TBR, so if worst comes to worst at least I'll finish this challenge in conjunction with one of the others. Ideally I'd like to read 'The Dry' by Jane Harper (not YA, but I'm excited about it!) or 'A Quiet Kind of Thunder' by Sara Barnard. 
I hope you enjoyed this TBR! Are you participating in the #SundayYAthon?

Sunday, 25 December 2016

WTF Did I Miss This Week? #12 (w/c 19/12/16)

The publishing world:

I couldn't find any new releases or cover reveals this week, so I think it's safe to assume that all of the publishing houses were winding down ready for Christmas. I bet next week is going to be a lot busier.

The music world: 

Again, I couldn't find any new releases to feature. If you can think of any, leave them down in the comments, but I think most labels are waiting for 2017 to begin before they put out any new albums.

However, that hasn't stopped the new music from coming in swarms!

Because January's too far away, You Me At Six have released another track from 'Night People':

Falling In Reverse are 'Coming Home' with their new comeback track:

And if you're still following The Maine's 'Miserable Youth', the eighth episode was released this week:

In other news:
  • Camila Cabelo quit Fifth Harmony. Could this have something to do with her recent collaboration with MGK?
  • Rick Parfitt of Status Quo passed away
  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2017 inductees.
  • Creeper announced that Energy and Puppy will be supporting them on their 2017 UK tour. 
  • Camden Rocks announced the first wave of bands playing the 2017 edition of the festival. 
  • twenty one pilots reimagined five songs with Mutemath, then released the new versions as a free EP.
  • Team Rock entered administration, so Ben Ward of Orange Goblin set up a JustGiving page to help the staff financially.
  • blink-182 claimed that the deluxe edition of 'California' should be a new album
  • Black Veil Brides were announced as the next AltPress cover stars. This followed the release of their new song, 'The Outsider', the first hint of what's to come from their fifth album. 
343.1 Black Veil Brides343.2 Black Veil Brides

I'm off to eat more chocolate and enjoy my presents - Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Why I'm buying less comics in 2017

A picture of my current - well-loved - comics page in my bullet journal.
In 2017, I'm buying less comics.
There are many reasons for this. I often don't have enough time to read the ones that I do purchase, and my unread pile is growing out of control. 
I also don't have enough money to maintain the volume of purchases that I've been pulling: I got far too excited when DC Rebirth launched, jumping on board with more titles than any one person strictly needs.
But the main reason is that I want the comics I read to have diverse teams behind them.

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Just this morning, Stacked Deck Press released a call for transgender comic book artists.

After reading a post regarding the cancellation of 'The Legend of Wonder Woman' over on Book Riot, I was shocked by the sexism still running rampant in the comic industry. 
It seemed like there had been huge leaps towards equality this year: Wonder Woman stole the show in 'Batman vs. Superman' back in March; Margot Robbie's portrayal of Harley Quinn in 'Suicide Squad' was so popular that the 'Gotham City Sirens' project was announced earlier this month, finally bringing Poison Ivy and Catwoman back to the cinema screens... But sexism in the industry is still alive and well. 
Titles that seem to have been aimed specifically at female comic book readers have male teams behind them (one of the reasons I haven't yet read the 'Spider-Woman' run by Dennis Hopeless, featuring a heavily pregnant Jessica Drew. Who thought a man could write a pregnancy story better than a woman who'd experienced it?).

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Pregnant Jessica Drew: written, and drawn, by men.
I read most of my graphic novels through the library, and because I'd like to continue supporting the service I'm not going to be as strict when it comes to grabbing all the new releases off of the shelves in there. But when it comes to purchasing, I'm going to be much tougher before I add new titles to my list.

The first comic I decided to drop was 'Supergirl'. When the new DC Rebirth run was launched, I snapped it up. I loved the art on the cover of the first issue, and I couldn't wait to read it. But with so many female comic book writers and artists, why does the team need to be completely male?
Then there's the new run of 'Jessica Jones'. I loved the Alias series and was so excited to see the team back together, but after the first issue that excitement waned. I read Alias when it came in to the library: I think I can probably wait for the graphic novel of the new run to be released, too. There's something missing, and I think it's the lack of female input. 
I'm also going to weed out 'Venom'. I'd read a few of his cameos in graphic novels over the last year, but as a solo character I just can't gel with him as well as I'd thought I would be able to. Oh, and 'A Year of Marvels'. I have no idea what an "Infinite Comic" means, but it's too damn hard to keep track of the release dates. 


Looking ahead, I've decided not to pick up America Chavez's solo title - simply called 'America' - when it's released next year. Yes, it's great to see Latina representation in comics, and I was beyond excited when I first heard the news. But the two members of the creative team currently announced are white males, it's a shame that it's not an #OwnVoices title. If there aren't enough Latina people involved in the comic industry, this could have been a way to encourage more people to get involved.

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The first cover for upcoming series 'America': a diverse character with an unrepresentative team.
Overall, I was pretty happy with my list. I feel as though having experience with a subject makes you more qualified to write it, because you can offer insight and reflection that people outside of your position can't. That's why I prefer female characters written by women (or, at least, with women on their creative teams). They're less of a caricature, more well-rounded, more realistic. That's why I've been enjoying 'Bombshells' and the DC Rebirth runs of 'Harley Quinn' and 'Batgirl' (and 'Batgirl and the Birds of Prey') so much; the characters really do come alive on the page. 

Image result for batgirl dc rebirthImage result for batgirl #1 dc rebirth

I'd like to take a second to recommend 'The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl' which, although I haven't been purchasing the single issues, is one of my favourite comic series at the moment. The creative team of Ryan North and Erica Henderson works wonderfully, and it's brilliant to see a superhero with a different body shape!

Image result for the unbeatable squirrel girl cover

Out of the comics I read in single issues, 'Black Panther' and 'Black Panther: World of Wakanda' have the most diverse creative teams, and they're heads above the rest when it comes to enjoyment. Whoever decided to get Roxane Gay on board, I applaud you. 

Image result for black panther #1Image result for black panther world of wakanda

I'm happy that I've decided to weed my pull list, and I want to thank Charles Paul Hoffman at Book Riot for bringing my attention to such an important issue. 
I'm only one person, and my purchases won't have any impact on the comic book industry, but I implore you: read more diverse comics, and don't assume that you're reading diversely based off of the gender or the colour of the character on the cover. Don't keep reading the same boring old white male superheroes year in, year out (I'm looking at you, Captain America and Iron Man!) because comics are much more interesting when you read widely, and read diversely. 

Do you have any diverse comic recommendations for me? If so, leave them in the comments below! I might be able to afford one more series. Or maybe two...

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five fictional items I'd give as presents

(Top Five Wednesday was created by GingerReadsLainey. Find out more at the Goodreads group!)

This has been one of the hardest lists I've ever had to create. I have such a terrible memory when it comes to fictional items, so I've been wracking my brain for weeks trying to prepare this topic.
I've finally managed to think of some items though, so sit back and discover what fictional presents I'd like to give to my closest friends!

5) Lightsabers for Tom, Jenny and Dennis
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Despite never seeing any of the Star Wars films, I seem to have acquired lots of friends who are FREAKING OBSESSED. Dennis has seen Rogue One more than three times already, Tom's bought himself a genuine Stormtrooper suit and Jenny has already had a personal lightsaber built for her, so I can't think of better presents to get them than real lightsabers with the phwooshy lights and the buzzing sound effects.

4) Owlbear for Heather
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In our Dungeons and Dragons game, Heather has a little totem that turns into an Owlbear and he is FEARSOME. He ripped the head off of a dragon with his bare, uh, paws! Or should that be his bear paws...
Either way, if I could get her that little totem, I would. Death and destruction to all! 

3) Harry's Invisibility Cloak for Lexi
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Lexi is obsessed with Harry Potter, covered in tattoos showing her love for the series. I couldn't get her a better present than the one that Harry receives during his first Christmas at Hogwarts: the Invisibility Cloak. 

2) Amplifiers from Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy for Lauren
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My best friend makes awesome jewellery, so if I could give her the material to make amplifiers she'd be able to make the most beautiful creations in the world. 

1) Pokeballs
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I wouldn't get one specific person a Pokeball - I'd get enough balls for everyone! 

I hope you enjoyed this Top Five Wednesday, and that you have a wonderful Christmas. Thank you all so much for staying with me over the last year! 
Which fictional items do you wish you could buy for your friends and family?

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

#2016ClassicsChallenge wrap-up (+ 2017 plan)

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Classics Challenge was created and run by Stacey @ Pretty Books
This morning, I finally finished 'Emma' by Jane Austen: my 12th classic of the year.
I successfully completed the #2016ClassicsChallenge!
Stacey announced last week that she wasn't going to be continuing the challenge in 2017, but I've had so much fun reading outside of my comfort zone - picking up books that people have been telling me for years that I NEED to read - that I'm going to continue reading classics in 2017 anyway.
I thought this was the perfect time to wrap-up this year's challenge, showing you all of the classics I've read this year, and to then show you my plan for my next twelve classic reads.

January: 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass' by Lewis Carroll:
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I read this many, many times when I was younger, but after reading so many retellings I'd wanted to re-read it again for years. It was a nice easy way to start the challenge, and on reflection I gave it 4 stars.

February: 'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath
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Sylvia Plath's only novel has always fascinated me, and when I was ill on a day in March (yes, I missed the February deadline!) I sat down and I read it in one sitting. I was enthralled and it makes me very sad that she only wrote this one story - I'm definitely going to need to take the time to explore her poetry and journals, though. I gave this one 4 stars

March: 'The Price of Salt' by Patricia Highsmith
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I read 'The Price of Salt' with the intention of watching the film adaptation soon afterwards, and even though I haven't gotten around to it yet, I really enjoyed the novel. I gave this one 4 stars too! 

April: 'The Catcher in the Rye' by J.D. Salinger
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Another classic that I was revisiting, I didn't like 'The Catcher in the Rye' as much second time around either. I downgraded it from a five star read to give (another) 4 stars

May: 'The Cement Garden' by Ian McEwan
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I hated 'The Cement Garden', and even though I gave it 3 stars I should have given it less. I loved the first couple of Ian McEwan's novels that I read, but I was seriously disappointed with this one. 

June: 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' by Truman Capote
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The copy of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' that I read also had other short stories at the end, and without those I think I would have rated it lower, but I gave the entire collection 4 stars

July: 'Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit' by Jeanette Winterson
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Being bisexual, and having just come out of a lesbian relationship, it seemed appropriate to read this autobiographical novel (yep, this is an #OwnVoices classic!). I thought the juxtaposition between Jeanette's sexuality and her religion was cleverly written, but overall I got bored a lot - that's why it only received 3 stars

August: 'The Country of the Blind and other stories' by H.G. Wells
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When I read 'The War of the Worlds', I thought it was the best book I'd ever read. I considered revisiting it, but decided instead to explore some of H.G. Wells' other writing - it's not like he doesn't have enough!
I love short stories, so I thought this would be just my cup of tea. While a lot of the stories were 5 stars, there were quite a few that I had to rate lower, so it averaged out at 4 stars

September: 'The Time Machine' by H.G. Wells
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'The Time Machine' is one of the most popular of H.G. Wells' releases, so I was certain I was going to love it. Sadly, I found it repetitive and bland, which is why I ended up giving it 2 stars

October: 'The Age of Innocence' by Edith Wharton
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'The Age of Innocence' was another classic that I'd had on my TBR for years - since I watched 'Gossip Girl' back in 2013, in fact, because the show has an episode featuring a play of the novel. I found it so bland - there wasn't even really a plot - and I was so happy to finish it so I didn't have to continuing experiencing how irritating all of the characters were. I gave this one 2 stars as well.

November: 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen
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I was invited to join a Jane Austen readalong, and I thought it was the perfect excuse to not need to decide what my last two classics would be - they were predetermined! I've been recommended 'Pride and Prejudice' time and time again, and I ended up loving it: I only gave it 4 stars, but I'm already thinking of rereading it because I think it would easily bump it up to 5. 

December: 'Emma' by Jane Austen
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Oops, spoilers: I already gave away my December read at the top of this post! 
I started reading 'Emma' four years ago, struggled through it for a year and then abandoned it, so I'm so proud of the fact that I've managed to read it in nine days this time around. I only gave it 3 stars: it was too long, and I could predict the ending far too early, but it's left me excited to read more of Jane's works in the future. 

Talking of which...

I think my classics reading plan for 2017 is going to look something like this:

  • January: 'Persuasion' by Jane Austen
  • February: 'Northanger Abby' by Jane Austen
  • March: 'Sense and Sensibility' by Jane Austen
  • April: 'Mansfield Park' by Jane Austen
The Jane Austen readalong finishes in April, so that's when I need to start choosing my own titles!
  • May: 'Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon' by Jane Austen (the library has a copy of Jane Austen's unfinished works, so I might as well finish reading her entire bibliography!)
  • June: 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte
  • July: 'Ulysses' by James Joyce (I tried to get to this one in 2016 and failed)
  • August: 'Middlemarch' by George Eliot
  • September: 'Lolita' by Vladimir Nabokov
  • October: 'A Clockwork Orange' by Anthony Burgess
  • November: 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' by Thomas Hardy
  • December: 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens (I still don't think I've read this, even though I've read and seen lots of adaptations)
I'll be honest, my picks are probably going to change throughout the year - I probably won't have enough time to read 'Ulysses' because it's HUGE, and I might have had enough of Jane Austen by the time May rolls around. I'm looking forward to trying some different things, though: hopefully I'll finally find a 5 star classic!

If you took part in the Classics Challenge this year, how did you do? If you didn't, are you planning on trying to read classics next year anyway?