The Reading Series: Reading for Pleasure as a Blogger

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It’s Sunday, and time for the final installment in The Reading Series. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. This collection of discussion posts aims to explore different ways we read, what effect they have on us, and why. Today’s topic is…

Reading for Pleasure as a Blogger

Reading is a very important part of my life, and I do it for so many different reasons. Throughout The Reading Series, I have discussed different ways people read, and have experienced them all myself in some way, but reading for pleasure is something that I feel is more widely done than any of the others I have talked about. Those who enjoy reading don’t usually mind acdemic reading, whether fiction or non fiction, but they also enjoy reading as a hobby, as one might play video games, watch TV, or do some knitting. There are so many ways that reading can be enjoyable, and my main reason for being so infatuated with literature is escapism, and the depth that stories can go into, that steal a part of my mind throughout the day, even when I’m not reading. It’s not just the reading that I find pleasurable, although it is the biggest part of it, but being surrounded by books in their physical form, the scent of their pages, the colours of their spines, and the designs on the cover can provide hours of entertainment for me. I always feel at ease when I am surrounded by books, and the more books there are, the better. Admit it, I’m not the only one who stares at their bookshelf after it’s been reorganised, or a new book has been added to the ever-growing collection! Bookstores feel like a safe haven if I ever need to go out and get lost in a different world, and the bigger the bookstore, the better.

A friend recently pointed out to me that the time I spend reading can be sometimes be imperative for running a book blog, and my desire to do this successfully. It is a major part of the work I do for my blog, even though I had never considered it work until this was made clear to me. After my blogging hiatus, when I had taken some time out to catch up on personal reading, it dawned on me how much I wanted to read, and how many books on my shelf I still hadn’t read. So when I came back to blogging, I out a not up on my review request page, letting authors and publishers know I was no longer accepting books in exchange for reviews. In a sense, I was having too much fun reading books from my personal TBR. I have found there is a major difference between reading for pleasure and reading for my blog. When I read from my TBR, and find myself immersed in the story, it’s a lot easier to write a good review. Similarly with books I don’t enjoy as much, I find it easier to write about what I didn’t like. When I was reading books that were sent to me, I felt less connected to them, because I was reading them with the constant thought that I had to review it after. I therefore found that I wasn’t enjoying the story as much. 

Even now, when I’m only reading books from my personal TBR, I have seen a change in how I read. I always have an active mind, thinking about what I might write in a review, but I find this a good thing, and makes me more of an active reading, being able to engage in the story. Most of the time, this makes it easier to write a review, because I have so much to say. My next step is keeping tabs on what I think, writing post it notes as I go, because otherwise I just forget! When it comes to actually writing the review, it can sometimes be a laborious task, but that’s when I know I’ve enjoyed the books, and I’ve got so much to say, I just want to get it all down on! 

So overall, yes, reading a book when you know you have to review it after can take away from the pleasure of reading, but I find it can sometimes enhance the reading experience as well, making me think more deeply about the writing and the story. 

What do you think? Do you sometimes find reading books a chore when you know you have to review them? Do you find it takes the pleasure out of reading sometimes, or puts more excitement into the reading experience? Let me know your opinions on this post in the comments!

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

Review of ‘Lord of Shadows’ by Cassandra Clare

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At last, the wait is over, and Cassandra Clare’s second book in The Dark Artifices trilogy is out in the world! I have only been a fan of Clare’s books since the beginning of this year when I started The Mortal Instruments series, but it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the Shadow World. And here I am, caught up with the crowd and reviewing the latest book from the ‘queen of fantasy’! Just a quick word of warning: it’s a long one (the book, and this review!)!

Below is my review, plus a sneaky peak at the front cover and description and places to buy:

Please do not read any further if you have not read Lord of Shadows, or any of the other Shadowhunter Chronicle books! This review contains spoilers! Continue reading

The Reading Series: Reading Textbooks

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It’s Sunday, which means it’s time for the next installment in The Reading Series. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. This collection of discussion posts aims to explore different ways we read, what effect they have on us, and why. Today’s topic is…

Reading Textbooks

Being a university student, I am tasked with writing an essay twice a year. I am lucky that the majority of my course is practical based work, but learning the theory behind what I do is imperative to my practice. The first step to starting an essay, after attending lectures and choosing a topic, is the research. There tends to be a reading list that can help me on my way, but I have tp guide myself through my research, and let the research guide me sometimes, to find an appropriate direction to take my writing. Reading is sometimes the biggest part of the essay writing process, bigger even than the writing itself. Well-crafted essays require a lot of background knowledge, which can only be aquired in a few ways. Reading is one of them.

I am very lucky at my university to have a well stocked library for everything I need to know, but actually knowing what book I need in the first place is a big task sometimes. I usually know what I want to start my research with, but finding the right book with the correct information can be tricky! When I find a good fiction book, it becomes like a comfort blanket to me, and this doesn’t change when I find a good textbook. I hang on to that textbook as long as possible throughout my writing process to refer back to, and use as a reference guide to other books to gain further insight into my topic.

In the past I’ve discussed reading fiction books for various reasons, but how does reading fiction differ from reading textbooks, beyond the obvious? Despite feeling like a well educated and well read person, I can sometimes find textbooks to be quite complex in their sentence structure, technical wording, and general theories stated, that might not make a lot of sense to me. Compared to a fiction book, where I am able to understand most of what’s going on, textbooks can be a massive drag to read, especially when I can’t get my head around what’s happening! Textbooks also leave a lot less up to the imagination, if anything at all! Fiction books allow us to enter these amazing worlds created by the authors and help us as readers exercise our thought processes through the practice of bringing the written world to life in our heads. Textbook authors are writing through the lens of theory and fact, with the occasional opinion, leaving us less to imagine, because, to put it simply, it already exists. There is no fantastical plot, or amazing characters to configure in our heads. This could be why a lot of people who may really enjoy reading still find textbooks incredbly dry.

On the topic of fact, what is exciting about textbooks (there, I said it, textbooks can be exciting at times!) is that, whenever we read them, we obtain new knowledge. As much as they can be laborious to read, they can give fantastic insights into the real world that is turning around us. Yes, it may be nice to escape reality through the form of fiction, but learning about the world we live in can be so insightful. This is even more true when we consider the fact that, by the time you get to university education, you are more than likely studying a subject you are interested in anyway. Being able to choose a topic within your chosen study gives you so much freedom to research whatever you like (within reason), which means you are more likely to come across textbooks that seem more interesting. I’m not saying you won’t find the odd one or two that will bore you out of your mind, but even they might hold a nugget of information that you find exciting, or puts you on a pathway to find out even more about your chosen topic. By being in control of your what you research, you can control what you read, and you can make it exciting. I do understand how difficult it can be to read textbooks, especially those massive, daunting ones that look like they have been collecting dust on the library shelf for 100 years or so, but it is such an amazing feeling to find that comfort textbook that guides your research, or that tiny bit of information that takes you on a journey of discovery.

As dull and complex textbooks can be, there is also a subtle beauty to the knowledge they give us (even when shown through a scruffy page of notes)!

What do you think? Do you read a lot of textbooks, and if so, how do you find the experience? Let me know your opinions on this post in the comments!

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

The Reading Series: Reading Fiction for Study

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It’s Sunday, which means it’s time for the next installment in The Reading Series. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. This collection of discussion posts aims to explore different ways we read, what effect they have on us, and why. Today’s topic is…

Reading Fiction for Study

When I was studying for my English Literature GCSE, it was Wuthering Heights that the exam board had chosen for that year’s paper. After reading a synopsis, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to get started, and having never read a classic before, I knew I might struggle with some of the language. I downloaded a Cliff Notes pack, for both Wuthering Heights and Much Ado About Nothing (which was our Shakespeare play study), to have as a companion for understanding fuzzy parts in the plot line, and some of the dialogue and phrasing (which was super helpful and I highly recommend using them). So I had to read Wuthering Heights over the summer before starting to study it to get to grips with what happens, and I really did not enjoy it. It was the only book my mum has ever forced me to sit down and read, and I had to get through 20 pages a day. That doesn’t seem like much, but for me, it was a chore, but the act of studying the story opened some kind of gateway I wasn’t going use until a bit later on. So to cut a long story short, due to hating this book, it put me off studying English Literature at college, which is now one of my biggest regrets. Recently, however, I had the chance to study some of my favourite books for a graphics project, where my chosen collection to base the outcome on was books. This completely changed the way I looked at the 4 books I chose (The Fault in Our Stars, The Book Thief, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and To Kill A Mockingbird), and made me think differently about how I go about reading books.

I really thought that studying the fiction I have come to fall in love with over the years would ruin my experience of them, and therefore prevent me from wanting to reread them in the future, but in fact, my experience was enhanced. The more I learnt about the books as I read them, the further I understood the story and the writers intentions. I know a lot of people have different ways they study a fiction book, but I would just like to share a glimpse at my close reading process.

As soon as I knew I was going to research my favourite stories in more detail, I wanted to reread them and take notes for primary research. I wanted to record my emotional connections with the story, and why I was so in love with these books. So naturally, I bought myself a notebook. An expensive, branded, hardback notebook. This was my motivational tool, and a way of showing I was dedicated to this project. When I started my research process, I made very particular notes of everything I picked up on in the story. It was really tough at first. I hadn’t done anything like this since Wuthering Heights, so I had to refresh my memory a bit. However, once I got into it, the process was extremely enjoyable. I loved discovering new features in these stories I had never picked up on before, and it opened my eyes to new meanings in the books. The symbolism especially was important to me, and this is what I ended up writing about in my final outcome. Some parts of this process were pretty tricky, like when I was so into the story, I was forgetting to look out for things that might trigger some note-taking, and when I was trying to maybe read too closely into certain things, but the process as a whole was enjoyable.

So how has this changed the way I read books now? Of course, not every book I read is for studying, but I have found that going through this process of reading fiction as an act of study, rather than an act of pleasure, has changed the way I think about the stories I read. I feel I can become more involved with the story, and understand more fully what the author’s message is, and what they are trying to communicate through the characters, symbols, setting, and even certain phrases. Particular the practiced authors are more enjoyable to read now I have come to further understand this process of close reading. But is it necessary for us as readers to be able to close read a book, or have to do it all the time? Certainly now, I find myself searching in a story more subconciously, rather than actively seeking meaning through close reading, but I don’t feel it is necessary to do it all the time. It is definitely not something you have to do at all when reading, as it is perfectly acceptable to read and enjoy a story without looking for a deeper meaning. However, for those who want to be more emotionally invested in the stories they read, practicing close reading, and engaging more with what the author is trying to say, can really help to release feelings about a book you weren’t necessarily looking for, and can therefore make the story that little bit more enjoyable.

What do you think? Do you often have to read fiction to study? Let me know how you go about your reading, and your opinions on this post in the comments!

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

Review of ‘Lady Midnight’ by Cassandra Clare

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As you may have seen in my post, My Shadowhunter Journey, I have been absorbed into this incredible new world that I have to share with you all! Lady Midnight is the first book in The Dark Artifices trilogy, which is Cassandra Clare’s 3rd Shadowhunter series.

Below is my review, plus a sneaky peak at the front cover and description and places to buy:

About The Book


Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

In a kingdom by the sea…

In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.
A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.
Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.
Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?

My Review

From one of the most highly regarded young adult fiction writers, Cassandra Clare, Lady Midnight is Book 1 in The Dark Artifices trilogy. As well as continuing on in the Shadowhunter world, the story also bleeds into the genre of mystery, with the characters faced with a series of murders they have to solve.

Years after the Dark War, Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn are bound as parabatai, and live in the Los Angeles Institute with the rest of the Blackthorn family. After losing her parents, Emma wants to know exactly how they died all those years ago. The Clave insists Sebastian Morgenstern was behind it, but Emma has other ideas. She is determined to figure out what really happened. With the help of her parabatai and his siblings, an investigation gets underway, after some testing cicumstances for the Blackthorns and the Institute. The romance weaving into a dramatic storyline builds the character development to higher heights than previous Shadowhunter books, and also allows the reader to engage more with how this fantastical world works.

Everything that happens in Lady Midnight has been carefully structured, showing the reader what is happening, and allowing them to try and work out what is happening before the characters reach their final conclusion, like any great crime novel would. With so many different relationships and events happening throughout the plot line, the story is by no means predictable! As the characters discover more about the investigation, and about themselves, the pace continues to speed up, resulting in the climactic ending that all readers desire.

As with the majority of stories, some slower moments were to be expected, particularly when Clare briefly recaps previous stories, or more ‘mundane’ activity at the Institute, but this definitely does not take away from the excitement in the res t of the book. Everything was clearly planned and logical, with the perfect amount of threads adding up at the end, and leaving enough questions, to have readers satisfied but wanting more. Thankfully, Book 2 is here!

I absolutely loved Emma and Julian, and how their characters had developed from the 12 yr-olds we saw in parts of City of Heavenly Fire (if you haven’t read The Mortal Instruments, then you should go and do that… right now!) The way everything carried over from the first to the third series, such as the parabatai bond, the friendship, and the romance, and seeing how it has grown in the depth and detail, has really made these character realistic in a fantasy world. I also loved how members of the New York Institute, featured in series 1, made an appearance, which allowed readers loyal to the Shadowhunter Chronicles to see how they have grown and changed as well.

Despite Clare writing in the fantasy genre, she does it in a way for the stories to also stay connected to the real world, such as setting the characters in real places. The reality does not change with the characters. Yes, they are Shadowhunters and Downworlders, but the environment that surrounds them makes them seem a lot more realistic. A particular scene comes to mind, when Julian is making pancakes, which is such a normal thing to be doing, and allows the reader to be reminded that while these characters are different, they can still be relatable.

I was definitely hooked by the storyline, and the way it was written revealed just enough to raise questions to keep the reader guessing as the story progressed. My favourite part of the book was Jem revealed to Emma the secrets behind the parabatai bond, and why it is forbidden to fall in love with each other. This scene was proof that Clare is ever expanding the Shadow World and allowing us to learn new things about the intricate world she has woven. Emma’s reaction was completely appropriate, in my opinion, and sets up more to come with her relationship with Julian, mark and Cristina. Also, questions were raised at the end with Kit, and how he will fit into Lord of Shadows, which is quite an exciting prospect. The scenes written particularly well were the ones that went into specific details about the Shadow World, just because it shows how much thought has gone into Clare’s creation, and also raises ‘what if’ questions that can be developed and discovered as more Shadowhunter books are written.

There were definitely comical moments in the book, particularly those that were more mundane and seeing the characters engage in matters that they are not necessarily used to dealing with (the scene with Mark and the children in the kitchen springs to mind). There were some emotional scenes as well, but these were more heart-breaking in terms of romantic feelings, as opposed to sad, ‘characters dying’ emotion.

Reading Lady Midnight opened my eyes to the Shadow World a lot further than I thought possible, and the fantasy fiction I am living in at the moment is coming very close to the detail we see in Harry Potter. I think it is so important that we learn about fictional worlds like these, because it allows an escape from reality, and the more believable it is, the more we, as readers, are allowed to escape.

 

I would definitely recommend reading Lady Midnight, but not until you have read the 9 books that come before. Despite it being a separate series, background knowledge is a must to fully understand and appreciate the writing. Fans of fantasy will be sucked in to this one! By far the most enjoyable Shadowhunter book I have read so far!

My Rating: 5 Muffins out of 5

Where To Buy

If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy the book (including, but not limited to):

Amazon

The Book Depository

  Cover photo and description taken from Goodreads (view book profile here)

The Reading Series: Reading to Escape

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Now BookMuffin is back up and running again I wanted to try a new style of posting, which I can write weekly to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. This month, I have planned a collection of discussion posts called The Reading Series, which will explore different ways we read, what effect they have on us, and why. Today’s topic is…

Reading to Escape

One of the primary reasons I like to read is to take some time out of my day to forget my worries, and the constant list inside my head of things I need to do. This is the case for many other readers I know as well, and is something the majority of people use reading for at some time in their lives. Reading isn’t the same as watching television, as it allows you to work with your imagination, which is what takes you out of reality, and focus on the fictional world between the page and your mind.

One way, and probably the most popular I have found among other readers, is the use of fantasy fiction as a form of escapism. The aim of fantasy is write in another world, creating almost like a parallel universe to the society we live in; to make us want to be somewhere else. I believe that because fantasy embraces a unique place that is so unlike our own reality, it makes it easier for us as readers to escape. For me, Harry Potter has been the ultimate escapism ‘tool’, making me want to be a part of the world that Rowling has so carefully crafted. Thinking about fantastical realms, if you want to use fantasy as a form of escapism, it is so important the author gets the balance right between fantasy and reality. If it’s too bizarre, it becomes harder for readers to imagine they could escape there, but if it’s too mundane, then it becomes borderline ‘un-fantastic’. Using Potter as an example again, Rowling has the perfect mix of the muggle world, and the use of human emotions, with the fantasy element of magic and depth of understanding of a non-existent world. Magic is an incredibly important device in this series, and fantasy in general, as it gives the reader the opportunity to believe they can be in control of their lives, which is often why readers want to escape from reality in the first place.

Another, slightly different way of thinking about escapism is through reading books in the Young Adult genre. Through my personal reading experiences, this particular genre tackles many topics that can be challenging for a lot of people, and most written in a sensitive manner that allows the reader to fully understand what the character is facing. The way I think of YA as a genre for escapism is being able to connect with characters who may be facing issues in their lives that the reader themselves has been struggling with. This can help put certain ideas into perspective, and things start to be come clearer, especially if the problem is a new occurrence in life they are trying to fully understand and find answers to. This has been particularly evident for me when reading about tackling mental health issues, and seeing how the characters deal with different situations. Reading about this can help in reality and can possibly be applied to the reader’s way of thinking to help them cope in similar situations.

A final route of escapism I would like to discuss today is using the mystery and crime thriller genres. Generally, fiction offers us somewhere to go that isn’t our own lives, but when reading in the crime genre, it gives the reader a sense of purpose. It allows the mind to exercise through trying to figure out who the culprit is before the characters do, and for some crime novels, this can take a considerable amount of work. We try and pick out hints the author gives us, and go digging in the literature for more information. The more we dig, the further we get lost in the story.

Literature has become so significant today because of what readers find within the books they devour. The messages they receive, the problems they solve, the worlds they discover and the roles it allows them to play. Not a lot of this would be easy, or even possible, without access to literature. Using these different types of stories to escape can become a part of a someone who reads, and the reason they want to pick up a book, and I must say I am happy that literature exists for this very reason!

What do you think? Do you use reading to escape from reality for a while? Let me know what you like to read to take your mind off things, and your opinions on this post in the comments!

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

Monthly Book Roundup- since January…

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Hello fellow bookworms! It feels so amazing to be back blogging again, and I have been desperate to update you all on what I have been reading since I’ve been on my break. I’m starting from January, because all December books were featured in my 2016 Roundup! It really doesn’t seem like that long ago, so I can’t believe I’m sitting here writing about the last 5 months! Anyway, I have a lot to share with you today, so here is my ‘Monthly Book Roundup’ for the last 5 months…

What books have I read since January?

  • The Elite by Kiera Cass
  • Nest by Terry Goodkind
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green (re-read)
  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  • The One by Kiera Cass
  • Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase
  • The Mortal Instruments series (Books 1-6) by Cassandra Clare
  • The Infernal Devices trilogy (Books 1-3) by Cassandra Clare
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (re-read)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (re-read)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling (re-read)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (re-read)
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare (Book 1 in The Dark Artifices)
  • …currently reading Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare (Book 2 in The Dark Artifices)

I am really pleased with how I started the year, and I am one book ahead of schedule to complete my challenge, so I’m in a good place at the moment. There have been times when I had to slow down because of uni or other commitments, but I am certainly finding the time now summer break is here to catch up with my TBR.

Average Rating:  4.6

Number of total pages read: 9,872

Books read toward 2017 Book Challenge goal: 23.5/55 books

Books I plan to read in June:

  • … finish reading Lord of Shadows
  • Maybe a classic? Or a new series? Some YA? Open to suggestions here!

I’m super excited to see where the rest of the year takes me, and from now on I will be doing regular monthly updates to save the big ones from the end of the year!

What do you think of the books I’ve read this month? What about the ones I plan on reading? Leave your comments below, and book recommendations are always welcome too!

Happy June and Happy Blogging!

Jade 🙂