Category Archives: Books

THE TOP 11 BOOKS I READ IN 2017

It’s probably evident that I tried to write a “TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2017” post, but failed miserably and had to settle for the top 11 books I read in 2017, because I just couldn’t narrow it down sufficiently.

2017 was an excellent reading year for me, and I’m already fully set on having 2018 be an equally good (or better) reading year. For now, however, here are my favourite 11 books from all the ones I read in 2017.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – this was a Christmas present from my bestie and I absolutely adored it. I soaked it all up in a few days, and just loved the little stories and illustrations. Can’t wait for the next instalment, coming out later this year.

Ir-Rota Daret Dawra (Kważi) Sħiħa – I also read this late in December, in bed while sick in Catania, but it completely mesmerised me. What a masterpiece. It’s a story about a mother of two girls. If you understand Maltese, please read this book.

Turtles All The Way Down – it was so exciting to get the latest John Green book, and I think this is my favourite one. A story about mental illness, with a crushing (yet perfect) ending.

Kindred – this was a book-club book and I’m now very enamoured with Octavia Butler. Weird time-travel and slavery.

Autumn – I finally read an Ali Smith book and I understand the hype. Now I need to get going with some of her other books, pronto.

Names for the Sea – I read this while roadtripping in Iceland and it was the perfect book for that. You really get a feel for that mesmerising country.

The Midwich Cuckoos – an odd story but I loved it. Science fiction is great, especially when every woman in a town mysteriously gets pregnant.

A Room of One’s Own – OH MY GOD. What a book. Or should it be described as a long essay? It was so brilliant. So feminist and so relevant. All hail Virginia Woolf.

All the Light We Cannot See – I read this at the very beginning of 2017, and it’s such a special story about a blind girl during the Second World War in France.

Hot Milk – while reading this book, and even now by just thinking about it, you get transported to a hot, sticky seaside. A really brilliant book.

When Breath Becomes Air – this memoir is a must-read. A surgeon gets cancer and starts writing a book. Plenty of tears.

Hope you check out a few of these if you haven’t read them, and please let me know if you have any suggestions for me – my To-Be-Read pile is almost-infinite, but I always love new recommendations.

Several Brilliant Short Books I Read in 2017

Photo by Karim Ghantous on Unsplash

When I set myself the goal of reading 28 books last year, I panicked a little at the beginning of the year, and got into the groove of reading a lot of short books (some of which were so short I kind of felt like I was cheating…) – but it turned out fine because I read well over 70 books/graphic novels/items overall, so it definitely met my initial goal, regardless of how you’d classify the books.

This meant that I read a bunch of wonderful little books/zines/pamphlets which I must recommend to you. I love sitting down and reading a little book in one sitting – and little books are always easy to carry around, so I can get through so many so often.

Here are some of the top little books I read in 2017:

Mrs Rosie and the Priest – hilarious tales written in the fourteenth century.

All the zines by Fran Meneses – this is one of my favourite YouTubers who’s an illustrator and all-round lovely human. Her zines are so relatable and beautiful.

Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw – these two short novels by Henry James were fascinating, especially since I had heard about them for years but had never read them. Now I know.

The Unknown Unknown – this essay was surprisingly deep. Made me think.

The Suffragettes – I cannot tell you how important this little booklet was to me. Now I just want to publish my own, but for Malta.

The Happy Reader – possibly the best discovery of 2017. This book magazine is my favourite magazine, and it’s such a magical read, every time. Like a book club, in magazine form.

Animal Farm – I reread this classic in 2017 and it was as brilliant as I remember (maybe more so). A definite must-read, and a very quick read.

Le Petit Nicolas – very readable French and adorable stories about little Nicolas. I’ve already gotten the next one in the series and I hope to get to it this year.

The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck – I heard this on audiobook while driving for 6 hours one evening from Normandy to Luxembourg. It was brilliant and hilarious.

Kate Tempest poetry books (Let Them Eat Chaos and Hold Your Own) – this woman is a genius, and I adore her poetry. Hold Your Own is probably my favourite, but I also saw her performing the entirety of Let Them Eat Chaos in Belgium, so it’ll always be special to me.

In short: little books are great, and I have a giant pile waiting to be tackled in 2018 and the years to come. Let me know your favourite little books (which I usually classify as being under 200 pages).

12 Excellent Graphic Novels I Read in 2017

Possibly a little late in the day, but I had to share some of the best books I read last year. This is the first of THREE posts in which I’ll share my favourite graphic novels (this one), my favourite little books/zines/magazines (the second one) and my top favourite books (in general!) (the third post) of 2017.

In last year’s book wrap-up, I mentioned that I was loving graphic novels and I really wanted to discover more in 2017. This happened on an INCREDIBLE level last year. I read a huge amount of graphic novels, and I loved this journey of discovering this new form of reading material. There are so many wonderful, heartwarming, clever, hilarious and beautiful graphic novels – and comic book shops are pretty much amazing places, even if some people look at you funny because you don’t look like the stereotypical comic-book-shop customer. Especially when I’m in a French comic book shop.

Here are twelve excellent graphic novels (or comic books) that I read in 2017:

  1. Lady Stuff – an absolutely hilarious little book about womanhood which I received as a Christmas present from my bestie. It’s brilliant.
  2. The Saga series – I wasn’t too sure about this much-hyped series when I picked up the first volume, but I was strangely hooked. Now, I can’t stop, and I’m almost caught up.
  3. The Giant Days series – this was also really hyped, and I didn’t love it as much as the Saga series, but it intrigued me enough to pick up a few volumes, and I’ll probably get another one in the future to keep going with the series.
  4. Transat – I read this French graphic novel and was completely engulfed in this woman’s story of her voyage through life. This tells you nothing about the plot, but just know that it is beautiful.
  5. Adulthood is a Myth – I read this book in the car (in its entirety) after picking it up at the post office – it was that good. Such adorable doodles with lots of relatable situations.
  6. Persepolis – a magnificent story which everyone should read. The film is also gorgeous. Heartbreaking and very eye-opening.
  7. Un bruit étrange et beau – I was utterly captivated by this book. It’s a graphic novel in French, and I started reading it after liking the cover. However, the cover barely has anything to do with the story, and it was glorious. Very heavy and very dreamy.
  8. Mooncop – such a minimalistic story, with beautiful illustration. Super recommended, even if you get through it in a few minutes. Soak up all the details.
  9. The Trouble with Women – also a must-read. So hilarious and clever. Those darn women!
  10. Pyongyang – this one had a few problems, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, because I love most things when it comes to the fascinating (sad) country of North Korea.
  11. Maus – believe the hype! It wasn’t something I unabashedly loved, but it was definitely an important, weird read.
  12. Le jour où le bus est reparti sans elle – another lovely graphic novel in French, which turned out to be all about self-discovery and a clumsy, endearing protagonist.

As  you might imagine, I am still really open to more graphic novel suggestions! I have a pile of them in my bookcase, waiting to be read, but there’s always room for more.

6 Books You Should Totally Give as Christmas Presents

I always say that books make the best gifts, especially when they present the opportunity for the receiver to discover a new world or genre. Here are some ideas (mostly from books that I’ve read this year) as Christmas present inspiration for your favourite people:

  1. A cool graphic novel: like Mooncop, Saga Vol. 1, Persepolis, Maus, The Trouble With Women.
  2. An eye-opening poetry collection: like Let Them Eat Chaos.
  3. A book-lover’s magazine subscription: The Happy Reader.
  4. A book for the beginner/intermediate French-speaker in your life: Le Petit Nicolas.
  5. A feminist powerhouse of a book: A Room of One’s Own.
  6. The latest big Young Adult book: Turtles All the Way Down.

Happy reading and happy gifting!

The Books I Read in 2016

Here’s a round-up of my 2016 in books.

Little Books

Halfway through 2016, I started freaking out, because I had only read a handful of books, and was very far from reaching my goal of reading 27 books. Therefore, I started collecting and reading a bunch of little books, like the following.

  1. Only Dull People are Brilliant at Breakfast by Oscar Wilde
  2. The Great Winglebury Duel by Charles Dickens
  3. The Night is Darkening Round Me by Emily Brontë
  4. The Beautifull Cassandra by Jane Austen
  5. In Defence of English Cooking by George Orwell
  6. The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells
  7. The Sea Raiders by H.G. Wells
  8. To Be Read at Dusk by Charles Dickens
  9. The Kiss by Anton Chekhov
  10. Femme Fatale by Guy de Maupassant
  11. Murder by John Steinbeck
  12. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  13. The Dressmaker’s Child by William Trevor
  14. On Love and Death by Patrick Süskind
  15. Hannibal by Livy

My favourites were Femme Fatale by Guy de MaupassantMurder by John SteinbeckThe Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins GilmanThe Dressmaker’s Child by William TrevorOn Love and Death by Patrick Süskind and The Kiss by Anton Chekhov, and a disappointment was The Sea Raiders by H.G. Wells.

Books in Maltese

  1. Gramma by Leanne Ellul

I’m glad I read at least one book in Maltese this year, and thankfully it was an outstanding one. Heavy, with great rhythm, and what a protagonist’s voice.

Books in French

  1. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  2. Autour de la Lune by Jules Verne

Miraculously, I read three (including the graphic novel below) books in French this year (and bits of others). Le Petit Prince was beautiful to read in the original language, and I always love a bit of Jules Verne, especially when it’s simplified.

Graphic Novels

  1. Les Jours Sucrés by Anne Montel and Loïc Clément
  2. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie (adapted)

So I’m foraying into the world of graphic novels now. I read the Christie in one glorious sitting, but took my time with the beautiful Les Jours SucrésThe latter was incredible – the detail, the illustration… Such a heartwarming read. Please let me know if you’d recommend any graphic novels to me – I already have several on my to-want list.

Poetry

2016 felt like a big year for poetry for me. I completely lost myself in these two poetry collections, and would recommend them very highly, particularly to 20-somethings.

  1. Graffiti (and other poems) by Savannah Brown
  2. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Non-Fiction

  1. Between You and Me by Mary Norris

I loved this book. It was a birthday present from my boyfriend, and it was perfect for me – all about proofreading.

Novels

Novels are my favourite kind of book, usually. This year was a so-so one for novels. The new McEwan was fascinating, but nowhere near a favourite. In a Dark, Dark Wood was a pleasant surprise, but Where’d You Go, Bernadette? was a little disappointing. Satin Island was incredible, but the ending did leave me a little disappointed and bewildered – I really expected some massive, strange twist to the tale. I finally read Lord of the Flies and it was creepy AF. And while I found Middlesex to be a little problematic, I still enjoyed it very, very much.

  1. Nutshell by Ian McEwan
  2. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  3. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  4. Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
  5. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
  6. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  7. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
  8. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Disappointments

  1. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  2. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  3. The Sea Raiders by H.G. Wells

(And, to a lesser extent, Satin Island.)

Favourites

  1. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
  3. The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells
  4. Femme Fatale by Guy de Maupassant
  5. The Dressmaker’s Child by William Trevor

No stand-out favourite book this year, but I guess Adichie came out on top, as per.

In Summary

I read a total of 31 books in 2016. After a bit of a slump during the first half of the year, I suddenly found myself gobbling books up. It was great. I also went on a little of an over-buying-books binge. It’s not pretty. Or rather, it’s very pretty. I want more. Always.

Check me out on Goodreads (please add me as a friend!) and let me know your biggest recommendation for me from the books you read in 2016.

6 Books You Should Totally Give As Christmas Presents

(Kittens, unfortunately, not included.)

(Kittens, unfortunately, not included.)

For a lot of people, a well-chosen book is the perfect gift for the holidays. Here is a selection of books which I think would make lovely presents this year:

  1. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware – a crime story that they won’t be able to put down.
  2. Gramma by Leanne Ellul – a Maltese book that’s aimed at teenagers, but I fully enjoyed it as an adult.
  3. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur – beautiful poems for the super-woman in your life.
  4. Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris – for anyone who’s obsessed with language/spelling/grammar.
  5. Graffiti by Savannah Brown – a book of poetry by a teenage YouTuber (she’s now 20 though, I believe), and she’s my new favourite poet (after Kate Tempest, of course).
  6. Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest – this woman is incredible. That’s it. Just buy this book for yourself, for your dog, for your colleagues. It’s great.

Happy reading and gifting!

The Books I Read in 2015

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In 2015, I read 25 books (reaching my formal goal of 25 books and falling short of reaching my informal goal of 26 books – ah, well). Thankfully, a lot of the books I read were Very Good (and even Excellent), so this is going to be less of a round-up and more of a suggestion post.

BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATIONS

The Martian (Andy Weir) – A memorable book (even though the protagonist annoyed the hell out of me) and an excellent film (the protagonist annoyed me much less in the film, although the film had less fun-scientific bits).

Wild (Cheryl Strayed) – A beautiful story, which made me cry, and a beautiful film, which made me cry.

AGATHA CHRISTIE

By the Pricking of my Thumbs – I read this with my friend Anna, as our first read of our informal book club, and it was clever as always. Very Christie.

Crooked House – Very weird, but recommended.

Parker Pyne Investigates – Short stories, each with their twists and turns – loved it as a whole.

They Came to Baghdad – Meh. (Further discussed below.)

GOTHIC

Frankenstein (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley) (the original 1818 text) – I read this for a class I took at the University of Luxembourg, and it was so unlike the general impression of Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster that I had gotten from pop culture… Highly recommended.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson) – This was a re-read, but it had been about 10 years since I had read it originally. Love this story (again, read it for my gothic literature class).

A Slip Under the Microscope (H.G. Wells) – Two stories by H.G. Wells – interesting reads. ‘The Door in the Wall’ was definitely a cool story.

The Old Nurse’s Story (Elizabeth Gaskell) – Two stories by Elizabeth Gaskell, nothing special, but pleasantly creepy.

CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE (AKA MY QUEEN)

We Should All Be Feminists – Compulsory reading for everyone.

Purple Hibiscus – My first Adichie novel. Beautiful, painful, sad.

Americanah – An absolute masterpiece. The writing, the story, the weaving of all the plot lines and themes… Amazing.

ATLASES

An Atlas for Countries that Don’t Exist (Nick Middleton) – My boyfriend gave me this atlas for our anniversary last year, and it’s so beautiful and perfect for a history-and-map buff like me.

Atlas of Remote Islands (Judith Schalansky) – Also given to me by my boyfriend, but it was one of my birthday presents from him. A fantastic collection of islands (I LOVE islands) which has fuelled my wanderlust.

MISCELLANEOUS

A Tale for the Time Being (Ruth Ozeki) – I had been meaning to read this for a few years, and it didn’t disappoint, but was a little… weird.

A Move Abroad (Ian McEwan) – Such an odd McEwan, but loved it nonetheless.

The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins) – The hype around this book was quite something, and I enjoyed it, although the concept of warped memories scares me, and I don’t think I love seeing that in fiction that much (same with We Were Liars).

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Karen Joy Fowler) – Recommended by my boyfriend (and the rest of the world). Very strange, but a great read. I thought it was going in a massively different direction.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (Mindy Kaling) – I don’t know much about Mindy Kaling, and while I had some Feminist Issues with this book, I still really enjoyed it.

The Secret History (Donna Tartt) – A beautiful book, but still verged on being too wordy, too long, and too heavy for me.

DISAPPOINTMENTS/”MEH”

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman) – My first Gaiman. I thought I’d love it. I was rolling my eyes and skim-reading most of it, although some parts were very good. Maybe I’ll give Gaiman another go.

They Came to Baghdad (Agatha Christie) – I had such high hopes for this, but it took me ages to finish it, and although in retrospect it was quite a good story, I didn’t really enjoy reading it so much. My least favourite Christie so far.

The Innocents (Francesca Segal) – I REALLY DID NOT ENJOY this book. The story made me uncomfortable. Not recommended at all.

MY FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2015

A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry) – Mistry is quickly becoming one of my most favourite authors. The story was beautiful and quite Dickensian in length and pace, but I couldn’t put it down (even though it’s over 600 pages long).

Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) – As discussed above. Wow. This was so well-crafted, so poignant, so important, so beautiful. Adichie is definitely one of my most favourite authors now. She can write.

Wild (Cheryl Strayed) – As explained above, this book is really well-written and made me cry.

Yes Please (Amy Poehler) – I actually listened to the audiobook of this book, and while some of it wasn’t too interesting to me, most of it really hit home, or taught me things about life, and the final story she recites just made me laugh and cry while on a bus in rainy Luxembourg, so I had to bump it up to one of my favourite books of 2015.

Atlas of Remote Islands (Judith Schalansky) – Definitely one of my favourite books of 2015. The book was beautiful, and its contents were magical.

Any comments about these books? Or any recommendations?

7 Books You Should Totally Give as Christmas Presents

Death_to_stock_photography_weekend_work (10 of 10)

In my world, books are the perfect gifts. They’re the gift of an experience, as well as a physical product, and it’s such a personal offering – (hopefully) the person giving you the book thought about the contents and story of the book, and they’ve decided to actually give you the opportunity to own this new story and this new physical book. Bonus points if the book/edition is particularly nice to look at and to own.

Here are some suggestions of books which might be perfect for friends/family/acquaintances this Christmas:

  1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – a beautiful story for the fledgling feminist in your life.
  2. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson – a Gothic novella for someone who’d love a quick, exciting read of a classic.
  3. Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry – a vivid story about family and struggles, perhaps for someone who’s dealing with ageing family members or tough circumstances.
  4. An Atlas of Countries That Don’t Exist by Nick Middleton – a really gorgeous coffee-table book for the history/geography lover in your life.
  5. Yes Please by Amy Poehler – a hilarious compilation of anecdotes and strangely useful advice for a kick-ass woman.
  6. Wild by Cheryl Strayed – a moving story for anyone who might be feeling a little lost.
  7. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – my favourite whodunnit for someone who loves a good riddle.

Hope you receive a tonne of beautiful books yourself this year. :)

The Mid-Year Book Tag

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Yes, it’s a little (a lot) past the middle of the year, but let’s take a general glance at the first half of 2015 as a reading year with this “mid-year” book tag.

  1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2015. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Complex, easy-to-read, brilliant. Eye/mind/life-opening. Beautiful.
  2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2015. I haven’t read any sequels, but I read Crooked House by Agatha Christie, and that’s one of a… “series” of crime novels… I guess?
  3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – a lovely reader and ex-classmate (hi, Kirsten!) messaged me a couple of weeks ago and recommended this book to me. It’s only been out since February, but I’m very excited to read it.
  4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year. First & Then by Emma Mills – I’ve watched this YouTuber for years, and her awkwardness and her trials and tribulations with life and getting through education and getting a job have made me see her as a sort of kindred spirit somewhere on the other side of the world. I’m so happy that she’s written a book! I’d love to read it. It comes out in October.
  5. Biggest disappointment. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – ooooooooooooh. It was my first Neil Gaiman. I really wanted to like it. I wanted to love it. I didn’t love it. It was fine, and an OK story, but I was very indifferent to the “brilliant” parts.
  6. Biggest surprise. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – I had been meaning to read this for years, and then my beautiful best friend wanted to buy me a book as an extra birthday present, and I chose this one. It has started a love affair with this wonderful author.
  7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you.) Definitely Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She’s up there with my favourite authors of all time now, actually.
  8. Newest fictional crush. I’d say Obinze from Americanah. He sounds like he’s not afraid to feel his feelings.
  9. Newest favourite character. This is turning into a total Adichie love-fest, but it has to be Ifemelu from Americanah. She is everything I want to BE.
  10. Book that made you cry. Wild by Cheryl Strayed – and the crying happened quite close to the beginning of the book, which is strange, because I’m usually sobbing when we’re reaching the classic four-fifths-of-the-way-in climax of a book. This book was beautiful and very touching.
  11. Book that made you happy. Yes Please by Amy Poehler – I heard the audio book of this book, read by Amy Poehler herself, and it was pleasant and made me happy. I could listen to it anywhere – on buses, in bed – and it had quite a few pearls of wisdom that made me smile.
  12. Favourite book-to-film adaptation you saw this year. Wild by Cheryl Strayed – I read the book at the beginning of the year (cried) and watched the film a few days ago (cried).
  13. Favourite review you’ve written this year. (For The Innocent by Francesca Segal): “Ugh, I’m so glad I finished this book. I mostly disliked it. I hate the protagonist, Adam. What an idiot. The book sounded to me like it was written by a man who was up to his ear lobes in male-privilege. I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s about a 2.5 out of 5 stars. It was a very easy, flowing read, and well-written, but the story and the characters – ughhhhhhh, so eye-rollingly frustrating.”
  14. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received). Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky – this was part of my birthday present this year from my boyfriend. I essentially read it in a day, and loved every bit of it. And it’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen or owned. I love islands, I love stories about islands, I want more.
  15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year? (1) They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie – this is the first Christie that is taking me FOREVER to read. I’m about halfway through and really need to finish it ASAP. (2) Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – since Adichie has become one of my favourite authors, I need to do a McEwan and read EVERYTHING SHE’S EVER HAD PUBLISHED. (3) A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki – currently reading this too, and adoring it. Can’t wait to finish it.

Hope everyone has had a good reading year so far. Please let me know if you have any opinions/recommendations.