T5W | Top SFF Books on Your TBR

Welcome one, welcome all, to ‘Emma Remembers Top 5 Wednesdays Exists And Decides To Join In’… again. Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme/challenge which was created by the wonderful Lainey from gingereadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts of Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic.

This Wednesday’s topic is Top SFF Books on Your TBR and this is a Booktube SFF Awards Babble Crossover Topic – basically, it’s what it says on the tin, it’s a chance to talk about the science fiction and fantasy books you want to read ASAP. Given the YA fantasy kick I seem to be on right now, it seems like the perfect time for me to take a look at the huge TBR I still have and to pick out some books to highlight here as my Top 5.

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Review | The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

Title: The Song Rising (2017)
Author: Samantha Shannon
Read: 19th – 25th February
Genre: fantasy; dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The third book in Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season series, The Song Rising sees Paige and her not-so-merry band of clairvoyants venture outside of the Scion-controlled environs of London’s streets and into a much darker and deadlier world. The stakes are raised, the risks are higher, and the outcome is a riveting and heart-breaking addition to this ongoing dystopian/fantasy series.

“War has often been called a game, with good reason.
Both have combatants. Both have sides. Both carry the risk of losing.”

Immediately following on from the shock cliffhanger of the second book in the series, The Song Rising marks the third outing of dreamwalker Paige Mahoney and her voyant friends and foes alike. Having battled against the other cohorts in the scrimmage in The Mime Order, Paige is now crowned Underqueen and rules over the criminal underworld of London. However, though her victory means she can finally spread the truth about Scion and its Rephaim masters, with it comes the unenviable task of uniting the fractured gangs into a community that is able to survive the oppression it faces on a daily basis. To be a clairvoyant is treason and so every member of the Mime Order commits a crime by simply existing.

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Six Degrees of Separation | Room

Another month, another Six Degrees of Separation! If you don’t know what this meme is then see my previous post or the creator’s website for more details. Basically, every month a book is chosen and participants have to get as far away from the book as possible in six steps. Here are my efforts for this month, starting with…

Room by Emma Donoghue, a novel told from the perspective of 5-year old Jack, a child who lives with his Ma in “Room”, a room in which he and his mother are held captive by a man who kidnapped her some years ago. Jack’s perspective of life has been entirely restricted to this single room he shares with his mum, who tries her best to raise him as well as she can in this small space. Donoghue chooses to tell her story through the eyes (and words) of 5-year old Jack, making some of the traumatic events he narrates quite unusually told.

Speaking of unusual stories narrated by children Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told through the eyes of the unnamed narrator, a man who returns to the house he grew up in to attend a funeral. Whilst there his memories of childhood are triggered and he starts to remember the events of his past, and a very strange and surreal narrative unfolds, told through his perspective when he was a child. The book won the Specsaver’s National Book Awards’ ‘Book of the Year’ in 2013, an award which was won the following year by…

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, Burton’s debut novel, set in 17th century Amsterdam and telling the tale of Nella Oortman, a young woman who arrives in the city to move into the home of her new husband, Johannes Brandt, a respected merchant trader, a home which is as unwelcoming as Johannes’ sister, Marin. Johannes, though distant to his new wife, gifts her a beautiful cabinet-sized replica of their home, a replica whose appearance begins to mimic events in the real household as secrets begin to be uncovered and the plot thickens. As I said this book is set in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, as is parts of…

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfincha book which I desperately want to read asap because I’ve heard nothing but good things and I adored Tartt’s The Secret History. This book, however, centres around the painting of the book’s title, the Dutch Golden Age painting of a chained bird by  Carel Fabritius, a pupil of Rembrandt. Just as The Goldfinch’s protagonist, Theo, takes the painting from The Met in the wake of an explosion, and has no idea how this action will affect the course his life takes, Annie McDee has no idea how happening across a lost masterpiece in a dusty junk shop will affect her life in…

Hannah Rothschild’s The Improbability of Love, a book which is inextricably bound in the art trade world, as Rothschild’s protagonist begins to discover the true provenance of the Antoine Watteau painting she has inadvertently bought. The journey takes character and reader back through early 20th-century European history to reveal the painting’s shady history. The painting itself is even given a voice and, let me tell you, it does not mince its words about some of its previous owners. Some may find this narrative device of giving an object a voice to be odd, some may find it a gimmick, I enjoyed it, but I digress… just as parts of The Improbability of Love are told from this unusual perspective, so is…

Nutshell by Ian McEwan, a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet told from the point of view of a foetus inside the womb of the novel’s Gertrude character, Trudy. Trudy and her husband’s brother, Claude, hatch a plan to murder her husband, John (are you seeing the ‘Hamlet’ connection), but their scheming has a witness – the foetus itself. I have not read this novel, I’m not even sure what I think about this novel, but the fact it’s a Shakespeare retelling means I will inevitably pick it up at some point because I’m a sucker for that, which brings me finally to…

Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed, a re-telling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest which I am enormously looking forward to reading (The Tempest is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays) and which tells the tale of a recently sacked artistic director, Felix, who was planning a production of said play before he was “deposed” (so says the dramatic synopsis) by his assistant and enemy. Exiled from his job, he takes up new employment teaching literature and theatre at a nearby prison where they plan finally to stage his interpretation of The Tempest. The performance places the possibility of revenge on his enemies within reach, all of which sets up a super intriguing retelling of the play which I’m hoping will be meta but derivative enough to keep me hooked.

And there we have it, folks, from Room to Hag-Seed! I highly encourage you to try it out this little game for yourself and share in the comments below or link to your own Six Degrees post.


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March 2017 | Wrap Up

As far as months go, March was pretty much a non-entity. Or, at least, that’s what it feels like now I’m looking back on it… which is ridiculous because two films I was highly anticipated were released, I saw them, and loved both. (Beauty and the Beast and Kong: Skull Island, for what it’s worth) Me and Liz also ventured to the Tavern a couple of times (always a good time) and I even got to experience dinner at the Tavern which is… well… let’s just say the phrase “I think I’ve ate too much” becomes redundant after the tenth time of saying it. It was SO good though. Some personal/professional changes may also be happening in the very near future (I don’t want to say it too soon and jinx it) so that’s made the end of March very interesting, to say the least. I’m sure it will also affect April and my reading habits but we’ll see. For now, let’s look back at how March’s reading went…

In March, I read a total of 5 books – 5 fiction and 0 non-fiction, amounting to 2247 pages in total, and, of these, 3 books were re-reads. 

In terms of format: 4 were hardcover and was paperback.

And as for genre, very broadly speaking, books were fantasy – no one is surprised that I’m still on that fantasy kick. Sorry/not sorry, as always.

Onto the books themselves…

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Friday Reads | 31st March 2017

Well folks, the last Friday Reads I did I was saying that I couldn’t believe it was halfway through February and here we are at the end of March. Yep, that happened. So let’s just remain in a state of denial about the fact three whole months of 2017 have passed and focus instead on what books I’m currently reading and plan to read this weekend. Agreed? Agreed!

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Imagine a world in which every bad thought you had was made visible. Where anger, hatred and envy appeared as a thick, infectious smoke pouring from your body, leaving soot on your skin. A society controlled by an elite who have learned to master their darkest desires. Thomas and Charlie are friends at a boarding school near Oxford, where the children of the rich and powerful are trained to be future leaders. Charlie is naturally good, but Thomas’s father was accused of a terrible crime, and Thomas fears that the same evil lies coiled inside him. Then, on a trip to London – a forbidden city shrouded in darkness – they learn all is not as it appears. So begins a quest to understand the truth about this world of smoke, soot and ash – and perhaps to change it. (source)

I have no idea what the hell is going on in this book… and I kind of love it for that. I was sold on it in the opening chapter when there was a posh boarding school full of repressed little school boys being “examined” by the prefect for their sins. If that sounds weird, it’s because it is. The academic in me is also super intrigued because it’s doing interesting things with corporeality and fluid bodies and basically the former MA student in me is clutching this book in delight. I’m sure that will continue today and into this weekend.

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

‘Facts alone are wanted in life’: the children at Mr Gradgrind’s school are sternly ordered to stifle their imaginations and pay attention only to cold, hard reality. They live in a smoky, troubled industrial town so entertainment is hard to come by and resentments run deep. The effects of Gradgrind’s teaching on his own children, Tom and Louisa, are particularly profound and leave them ill-equipped to deal with the unpredictable desires of the human heart. Luckily for them they have a friend in Sissy Jupe, the child of a circus clown, who retains her warm-hearted, compassionate nature despite the pressures around her. (source)

You know, I’m mildly surprised by how easy this is proving to be to read. I always find it’s more daunting to look at a Dickens book rather than just getting round to actually reading it. It helps that I picked the shortest Dickens book to read though, there’s no denying that fact. But the fact I can read this comfortably on a sometimes noisy train probably attests to how it isn’t too tricky to follow. I’m intrigued by this Dickens novel because I know very little about it, except for knowing Gradgrind as a character, and I’m being pleasantly surprised. The Northern industrial setting is also my bag… and Coketown is definitely Preston, right?

I’m likely to be doing a lot of reading today/this weekend since Liz is working this weekend and so I won’t be procrastinating by watching Friends with her. I’d also really like to get down to some good blogging and get caught up in all the reviews I need to write because that’s been playing on my mind for weeks now. In between that I’m sure I’ll find time to read, maybe even finish these two books? Is that too ambitious? Probably.

So, those are my likely reading plans for today and heading into the weekend ahead. Do you have any Friday Reads posts? Or perhaps just some fun plans for the weekend? Let me know in the comments!


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Tag | TBR Tag

Today I bring you a tag! Originally created by JessicaMarie493 I believe (Who created this, was it you? Let me know!), I spotted this tag over at Thrice Read and thought I’d give it a go myself. I have a shameful amount of books on my TBR considering that I don’t read nearly enough in a week/month/year to keep up with it. To say that it’s ‘optimistic’ is a diplomatic way of putting it – ‘unrealistic’ would be a better word. So, hey, why not do a tag that makes me come to terms with this ridiculousness and do something about it. Enough with the reasoning, let’s get onto the TBR Tag!

1. How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

Short answer: I don’t.
Long answer: My Goodreads TBR shelf is getting faintly ridiculous because I use it to track any fleeting interest I might have in a book that I see on blogs or BookTube. So the word ‘track’ is probably quite generous.

2. Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

Mostly print, in fact I tend to forget that my e-book collection exists until I remember to charge my Kindle or have a look at the app on my phone. I really need to work on getting my physical TBR read before I can even think about my e-books.

3. How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

Mood, mostly, or I’ll be on a roll with a series or with a particular genre. Right now, that’s fantasy. I’ve also recently created a TBR Jar which should help me with forcing me persuading me to pick up some books on my TBR that I might not have got to otherwise. Although my TBR jar just made me me start reading Smoke by Dan Vyleta which was not the point because I definitely don’t need help in picking up fantasy novels to read.

4. Book that has been on your TBR the longest?

According to Goodreads, it’s The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien. I probably went through a phase of adding all my books to Goodreads and my Tolkien cubby hole was the first I added probably. No, I still haven’t even made an attempt to read it.

6. A book you recently added to your TBR?

In terms of my Goodreads to-read shelf I recently added Jen Campbell’s upcoming release The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night, a story collection which promises a modern take on fairytales featuring magic and mermaids and spirits and I mean why wouldn’t you want to read that?

7. A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill seems like a pretty apt one that I also recently added to my TBR. It has been longlisted for the Baileys Prize though so I suppose it’s not a solely shallow reasoning but, I mean, I know very little about the premise of this novel and yet it’s still on my TBR. Mentions were made of The Night Circus, the twenties, circus acts, and a hotel and I went ‘yeah, that’ll do’.

8. A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?

If I never planned on reading it, it probably wouldn’t be on my TBR – no, that’s a lie, I’d like to think it’s not still on my TBR but the truth of the matter is that it’s been a long while since I actually did a cull of my Goodreads to-read shelf. (Actually doing this tag has made me think I should probably do that cull, so thanks for that, tag!) In terms of a physical TBR, I’m pretty sure I’ll never actually get around to Villette by Charlotte Bronte. My friend and housemate Liz tried to read it a few months ago and said it was slow going. After reading Jane Eyre, I don’t really rate Charlotte Bronte enough as an author (controversial opinion??) to struggle through reading her novel for the sake of reading all her books so I’ll probably never pick it up. C’est la vie.

9. An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?

Can I say the next book in The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon even though I don’t know when it’s going to be released? I just finished the third book, The Song Risingyesterday and oh my god I need the next books, stat!

10. A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte is definitely a book I’ve been recommended multiple times, directly and indirectly. I’m sure one of these days I’ll get around to it, especially since I now own a lovely Penguin English Library edition, but today is sadly not quite that day.

11. A book on your TBR that everyone has read but you?

Hmm maybe George Orwell’s 1984? I’m pretty sure I got quite a way through this book and enjoyed it but I don’t think I properly finished it and I marked it as ‘did not finish’ on Goodreads – the fact there’s some sliver of doubt there makes me think I probably skim read the end because I needed to know what happened but didn’t actually read it all due to time constraints or some other equally pathetic excuse.

12. A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?

All of them? No, as far as physical books go I am still dying to read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven King, the fourth and final book in The Raven Boys series. However, I am forever conflicted – I want to read this book so badly and I also never want to read it because the reading of it would mean that I run out of Raven Boys books to read anew. It’s a tricky dilemma that I’m sure many a bookworm will empathise with.

13. How many books are in your Goodreads TBR shelf?

Ouch. Right, let me preface this by again mentioning that I really need to do a long overdue cull of my shelves on there… 1022 books. I know, I know, it’s terrible and unrealistic, shhh, don’t look at me!


Well there we have it folks that was the TBR Tag, what fun! For once I will officially tag a few people because I need to get better at doing that:

Stephanie from Adventures of a Bibliophile
Michelle from Book Adventures
Sarah from Reviews and Readathons
Kelly from Kelly’s Rambles
Laura from Reading Sanctuary
Cátia from The Girl Who Read Too Much

If any of the above ladies would like to complete the tag, please do! And if you’re also reading this and you want to do the tag but I didn’t tag you, psh, consider yourself tagged! Basically all of you should do this quick little tag so maybe I won’t feel quite as ashamed about how many books are on my TBR… 


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Review | Wishing for Birds by Elisabeth Hewer

wishingforbirdsTitle: Wishing for Birds (2016)
Author: Elisabeth Hewer
Read: 21st January 2017
Genre: poetry
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In this breath-takingly beautiful debut collection, Elisabeth Hewer displays a sense of lyricism and astuteness that make her poetry sing.

“Rebellion sits well on you
like a red coat
or the gilt gold burnish of youth”

Collecting together sixty poems, Wishing For Birds covers topics that range from the most personal and individual to the national and social, displaying in the process Hewer’s keen grasp of how to introduce and weave (at times, unusual) imagery into the “narrative” of her poems. Some of her poems look outwards, to the world around her, others look inwards, and others look back to the past. Some poems span a mere couple of lines, some are longer, but all are penned in a distinct voice which encapsulates Hewer’s spirit – the girl who (it seems) wishes for birds.

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My 2017 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #1

I have a horrible tendency of setting New Year’s Resolutions and then promptly forgetting about them completely until 1st January of the following year when I start setting new ones for the year ahead. Obviously that defeats the entire point of having goals to begin with, so I’ve decided to do quarterly ‘check-ins’ with my goals and progress, partly to keep me accountable but mostly to force me to remember to actively work towards achieving resolutions rather than having them become utterly pointless. This is the first check-in, so I’ll do a quick look at each of my 2017 Resolutions and see how I’ve fared in the months of January, February, and March.

For those who care to have an in-depth reminder of my 2017 Resolutions you can find that post here. Now let us examine how I’m doing…

READING, BLOGGING & WATCHING GOALS

1. Read at least 52 books in 2017

Verdict: On Track
At the time of writing this post, I’ve read 26 books and Goodreads informs me that I am well on track to completing the arbitrary 52 books goal I set myself as I am 14 books ahead of schedule. Thank you, Goodreads, that’s very good to know, I shall bask in the glow of that meaningless accolade. I know my own reading pace, and I know it fluctuates, so setting a book a week seemed like a manageable goal, and I have previously achieved it. Maybe I can even get to 75 books this year – is that too ambitious? We’ll see how I’m feeling when I get to Quarterly Check-in #2.

2. Write more reviews

Verdict: Failing
I really need to  buck up my ideas when it comes to writing reviews. Sometimes, it’s much easier to write a review for a book you hated – does anyone else ever feel that? My A Court of Thorns and Roses review just spewed out onto the page/screen so easily, whereas trying to explain why I love Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy is a bit harder and so I keep putting it off which is silly because of course I want to gush about the books I love, that’s part of the whole point of this blog in the first place. Must do better.

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Review | The Tearling Trilogy by Erika Johansen

Title: The Tearling trilogy:
The Queen of the Tearling (2014)
The Invasion of the Tearling (2015)
The Fate of the Tearling (2016)
Author: Erika Johansen
Read: 1st-6th Feb | 6th-11th Feb | 11th-19th Feb
Genre: fantasy; dystopian; young-adult
Rating: 5/5 | 4/5 | 3.75/5

Spanning three books, Erika Johansen’s Tearling trilogy tells the story of Kelsea Glynn, the exiled Queen of the Tearling who has been raised in secret for many years in order to protect her and her family’s claim to the crown of the kingdom. The land of Tearling represents a utopian project – the mastermind behind it was William Tear, a man who believed in a socialist system which he thought would lead to a more just and happy society, having experienced quite the opposite in America. In many ways, Tearling treads the boundary between fantasy and dystopian, for William Tear’s utopian society is (as is often the case) rarely that simple. As someone who enjoys exploring the political and social ramifications of how dystopias happen as opposed to the actual dystopia itself, the Tearling books were right up my alley, and might just be up yours too.

“The future was only disasters of the past, waiting to happen anew.”

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2017 Book Haul #2

I know what you’re thinking, am I really hauling another lot of books so soon after my first book haul of the year? Yes, in short. Amazon is the devil, it encourages me to buy books, and they make it so easy to acquire books that I just can’t say no. Their 3 for 10 paperback offer in particular is especially cruel. It’s a problem. Honest. See also: I have no impulse control. But we all know why you’re here (if you’re still here, wait, no, please, come back), so let us just get onto showcasing the shiny shiny books I have acquired lately…

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
The third book in the A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy, this is probably my most anticipated book for this year so obviously I pre-ordered it as soon as I could. I re-read the first two books prior to diving into this one and I’m so glad I did because it just made this beauty of a book all the more funny and heartbreaking all in one. I’m sure I don’t need to sing its praises since countless people have done so before me but it features a crown prince who is equal parts Jack Harkness and Prince Harry (not kidding), a magician able to travel into parallel Londons who owns a pretty damn amazing coat (yes, I want one), and a badass girl who has a touch of Jack Sparrow’s ‘now bring me that horizon’ sentiment about her.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wish you didn’t care so damn much about this merry band of misfits. Plus, I mean, just look at that cover design – it’s simply just gorgeous, right?
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The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon
Again, The Song Rising is a third book in a series I adore, so obviously when this “collector’s edition” (i.e.  them mercifully continuing to publish editions that match the old cover design) became available to pre-order, I was all over it. Once again, I re-read the previous books before diving into this one and may I just say, as I am currently in the middle of this right now, how dare you Samantha Shannon, you’re breaking my heart here… and I love you for it. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of reading it, The Bone Season is the first book and it tells the story of a dystopian London in which a sort of underground community of clairvoyants exist despite the Scion-controlled government’s best efforts to wipe them out, and then the story takes a detour into the beautiful Oxford, as you’ve never seen it before. The Mime Order, the second book focuses more closely on the politics and shenanigans of the syndicates/gangs of clairvoyants within London and it’s an amazing sequel and really ups the games. So, basically what I’m saying is, if you haven’t read it, you really should.
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The Sally Lockhart Quartet by Philip Pullman
If you follow the blog closely, you may have seen my Feature post discussing the books that “made me”, the books that I read as a child and shaped who I was as a reader and as a person, to be honest. This series featured on that list as I adored Philip Pullman’s take of Victorian London via the spunky Sally Lockhart. When I recalled how fondly I used to think of this series, I knew I had to purchase it for myself. A couple of clicks on Amazon and whoops, here we are, no regrets, look at that very apt cover design, it’s wonderful!

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