Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Best Books I've Read in 2016


We're linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for the final Top Ten Tuesday of the year!

In 2016, I've read over 100 books. Here are the stand-out stars! To save space, I'm counting series as one entry.

1. The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

Which part of dimension-hopping librarian who rescues books with the help of her (SPOILER!) sidekick does not sound like the greatest thing you will ever read?

My review for The Invisible Library is here.
My review for The Masked City is here.

2. Half Lost by Sally Green

This book broke my heart. I suggest you go and read it so that we can be broken-hearted little bookworms together.

My review for Half Lost is here

3. See How They Run by Ally Carter
It ended on a cliffhanger, as all my favourite books do. I can't wait for the sequel to come out in January!

My review for See How They Run is here.

4. Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

Creepy dolls, dead girls, and traumatised children. Welcome to the Isle of Skye.

My review for Frozen Charlotte is here

5. The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

We'll never know what actually happened, and that might actually be a good thing...

My review for The Dead House is here.

6. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling

Yes, some people actually enjoyed this. Case in point, hi! *Waves*
My review for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is here.

7. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

 An absolutely killer short story with a twist.

I have never met a Riordan book I didn't like.

My review for Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer can be found here.

9. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater's writing was as beautiful as ever in the conclusion to The Raven Cycle.

I discussed The Raven King here. 

10. The School Judgement series by Nobuaki Enoki and Takeshi Obata

A four volume manga reminiscient of the Ace Attorney video games... 


...Or would be if the Ace Attorney video games had been set in an elementary school.

What were the best books you read this year? Don't forget to link me to your TTT posts!

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

Have a Great Day!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Let's Play Ivyclad Bingo! (2017 Reading Challenge)

Welcome to the Ivyclad Ideas 2017 Reading Challenge - IVYCLAD BINGO!

The rules are simple. 

1. If you want to join, make a post on your own blog announcing your participation (or drop it at the end of another post, whatever) and linking back to this post. Yes, you can use the graphic above. If you aren't a blogger, create a challenge shelf on Goodreads.

2. Leave your name and the link to your post or shelf in the comments so that I can add you to the participants list at the bottom of this post.

3. Read!

In Ivyclad Bingo, there are twenty challenges.
  1. Read a Classic
  2. Read a book with a male protagonist
  3. Read a book with a female protagonist
  4. Read a book with a typo in it
  5. Read a retelling
  6. Read a book with a first person narrator
  7. Read a book with a third person narrator
  8. Read a book with aliens in it
  9. Read a short story
  10. Read a book with no romance
  11. Read a book with a love triangle 
  12. Read a book from the dreaded adult section
  13. Read a play
  14. Read a book set in the UK
  15. Read a book set in a fantasy land
  16. Read a book where everyone dies (four deaths or more)
  17. Read a book that is also a film
  18. Read a book with less than 200 pages
  19. Read a book with more than 500 pages
  20. Read a book with pictures (picture books, books with illustrations, comics, manga, and graphic novels all count)
There are four rankings.
  1. Bingo! - fill one row or column
  2. King Me! - fill two rows or columns 
  3. Triple Goddess! - fill three rows or columns
  4. Full House! - fill the entire board
(Objection! These are not all bingo terms. 'King Me' is from checkers, the 'Triple Goddess' is the maiden/mother/crone trio commonly worshipped in pagan mythology, and 'Full House' is a poker hand.)

We at Ivyclad Ideas believe that consistancy is overrated

A copy of this post may appear in the navigation bar at a later date to provide an easy link.

Remember, if you want to link up, I need you to leave your name and a link to your Ivyclad Bingo blog post/shelf in the comments. 

Participants -

Rain @ Ivyclad Ideas 

Shar @ Virtually Read

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Giving a Whole New Meaning to 'Living Out of a Suitcase' - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

(NB: The image of the film camera in the picture is from https://www.pexels.com/, a stock photo site. According to the site, all uploaded photos are free to use for personal or commercial use, and no attribution is necessary.)

I finally saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them today, so, without further ado, here is my outpouring of random thoughts and emotions. 

Newt is adorable. He's an introverted, socially awkward, animal lover. He's also a confirmed Hufflepuff, making the whole 'Hufflepuffs are particularly good finders' thing canon.


His three eventual companions, Tina, Queenie, and Jacob, are also all brilliant in their own unique way. Tina is a thouroughly determined auror who believes whole-heartedly in doing what she thinks is right. Queenie can read minds. She can hold a conversation all by herself. She was bright, happy, and always smiling. I don't care if she went to Ilvermorny! I'm claiming her for Hufflepuff! 

(...You can't do that.)

Watch me! 

Hufflepuff Pride!

Jacob doesn't quite know how he got into this mess. He's the only no-maj in a group of wizards. No-maj is the American muggle, which makes sense given the slight differences in British and American English. 

Plot-wise, Newt Scamander arrives in America with a suitcase full of (illegal) magical creatures which he takes (illegally) into New York, and illegally accidentally sets loose. Meanwhile, a MACUSA (think the Ministry for Magic, except American) wizard called Graves conspires vaguely in the background with Credence, an abused teenager whose mother runs the anti-magic New Salem Philanthropic Society. As you'd expect from a film that's part of the Harry Potter franchise, it's beautifully done. The scenery is perfect, and the creatures are gloriously animated. 

My two bugbears are both spoilers, so I'm going to be as vague as possible. The big reveal at the end, for me, came out of nowhere. There was no foreshadowing at all, or at least, none that I caught. The other is the sheer amount of misdirection as to what Graves and Credence were looking for. We were given very exact specifications - the same specifications from multiple characters, including Newt, who had some experience in the area - to the point where the reveal of what it was felt like cheating. Maybe these would be remedied by a rewatch? 

Have you seen Fantastic Beasts? What did you think? 

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

5 Things Lit Students Should Never Do

NaNo's over and the Christmas holidays are just around the corner. 

(Hopefully, that means that, even with reading and essays, somebody will be able to get back to blogging on a proper schedule.)

Schedule? What's a schedule?

(Schedule. Noun. -)

Sarcasm, Ivy. 

Whether you're new to my blog or not, you're probably aware that I'm a student because -

(She mentions it every other post.)

-  It says so in the header. So, inspired by my own failings as a student and the things that irritate me about other students, here are five things that literature students should never ever do. 

1. Enter a Bookshop

Before you became a literature student, bookshops were your haven, your sanctuary, your home away from home. Now, it is imperative that you do not cross the threshold. The bookshop is no longer your friend. 

If you go into that bookshop, you will...buy a book.

(Horror of horrors.)

The problem begins when you get home and see the ginormous stack you have to work your way through before you can read said book. Reading books for fun during term time requires perfect time management. You do not have perfect time management. There is no such thing as a student with perfect time management. Just give up now and resign yourself to only reading books for fun (as the benevolent sky dragon intended) during the holidays.

2. Underestimate the Pain of Referencing

Three things you should know about referencing sources -
  1. It will take longer to do the referencing than it will to write the actual essay.
  2. Every format is referenced differently. It is embarassingly easy to mistake a journal article for an essay from a book.
  3. Sometimes, it's difficult to know whether you need a source or not. For example, the statement 'Middle class Victorian society was patriarchal and forced men and women to conform to strict gender roles,' is general knowledge, but would still require a source to substantiate it. It doesn't matter if you know you're right, you have to find a source to prove it.
Anybody who goes into a literature essay thinking that the only text they'll have to reference is their primary source is going to need smelling salts. And chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. Personally, I recommend Malteasers.

3. Think You Can Read a Book in a Day

You have a book that's less than 200 pages. Think The Great Gatsby. Of Mice and Men. Season of Migration to the North. Maybe the books set for your other modules are longer. You've read over 400 pages in a week for one of them, and written the first 2000 words of an essay for another. You go to bed on Saturday night thinking, 'I can get that read tomorrow.' 

Well, I'm here to tell you, no you can't.

You don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Aliens might invade overnight, the zombie apocalypse could start tomorrow, the key to survival being hidden in the pages of that book you didn't read, or you might have to take your flatmate to the hospital. Sunday is not guaranteed to be free, even if you've gone out of your way to make it so. 

4. Write on a Book You Haven't Read

First of all, of all the books to write on, why the one you haven't read? No, the lectures will not be enough. No, not even with Sparknotes, if you can even find the book on there. A minority of people can miss books, lectures, and seminars, and still pass highly. These people, surprise, surprise, have no friends. 

(Do I detect a hint of bitterness?)

More than a hint. This drives me absolutely batty. I am a minor goddess of bad decisions, but how anyone can think that writing on a book they haven't read is a good idea is beyond me.

Sometimes, books do get skipped. Maybe you were ill, maybe your seminar leader decided to cut it out (yes, it happens), maybe everything got on top of you and you simply decided to give it a miss. It doesn't matter why you skipped it, all that matters is that you pick a book that you did read to write on for your essay. If a book is compulsory for an essay then for the love of God, read it, and read it in plenty of time. Even if you are in that irritating lucky minority, reading the book can only push your mark up even higher.

5. Be the Last One to Go to the Library

If there's an exam to pass or an essay to do, the relevant library books are going to go and go fast. You know this. I know this. We both know that we will still end up going the week before when the only thing left is half a volume on iambic pentameter. 

Thank God for online journals.

Raise your hand if you've ever made one of these mistakes. 

(If you've committed the sin that is number four, you might not want to mention it.)

Do you have anything to add to the list?

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Three Stories in One - Transmission by Hari Kunzru

4/5 Stars

"Who clicked? Did you click? Were you curious enough to try?" - Hari Kunzru, Transmission

Arjun Mehta is a young Indian man trying to make his way in America who, in a moment of despair, makes a mistake that will change three lives.

Leela is a young woman trapped in the Bollywood film industry by her mother's desires. Arjun's actions will make her infamous.

On paper, Guy Swift is the high-flying owner of a tech company. In reality, he needs to cinch a deal within the next few weeks or his company will lose its funding. Arjun's actions will turn his life upside down.

Transmission is a story that will put the fear of the internet in you, if it isn't already there. In one evening of emotion, Arjun brings the world crashing down to the ground. I knocked a star off in part for the slow beginning, but, to be fair, it was probably necessary. If we hadn't gotten to know Arjun before the event - if we hadn't gotten to know how sweet and naive he is, how desperate he is to succeed - we wouldn't sympathise with him. Kunzru's characters are all deeply flawed: Guy is misogynistic - I don't think he ever looks at a woman without thinking of her as an object - and you would not want to be one of his employees, Chris plays with Arjun's emotions, and Gaby needs change. For me, it was the characters that carried this story. I loved Gaby despite her flaws, and I loved her relationship with Leela even more. Conversely, I was glad to see Guy fall. I found the chapter where Arjun was called into Darryl's office really difficult to read. I think that was the point where I realised that this was no longer just a coursebook for me - I had begun to enjoy the story.

I mentioned a slow, confusing start as part of the reason why it lost a star, the other reason is a case of questionable consent. There is a not overly explicit scene between Arjun and Chris that I found highly uncomfortable because I'm not convinced that Arjun consented to what happened. The aftermath addressed the scene from a cultural perspective - Arjun being from India, and Chris being an American woman - but it never addressed what, for me, was the real problem. However, friends who have also read the book disagree with me on this. It is quite ambiguous. I also questioned Guy, the head of a computer company, clicking on a link in an email from somebody he didn't know. Perhaps this is because of when it was published (2005), but we're all taught not to do this nowadays for the exact reason given in the novel. A supposed tech expert doing it seems a little forced.

Transmission was a brilliant read that linked all of its characters together into a tangled web of email addresses and created an urban legend conspiracy worthy of a thousand internet forums. It's beautifully written, and with so much detail that you can't help but picture the world in your head. I love an ambiguous ending, and this one will leave you guessing and obsessing over the story for a little while.

Who here remembers chain mail? I know it's not the same thing, but the way Arjun basically broke the world reminded me of it. Has anybody read Transmission? Is anyone going to?

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Ten Writers I Read for the First Time in 2016


Here's something we haven't taken part in in a while! Top Ten Tuesday, with The Broke and the Bookish. This week, the topic is 'Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016.'

1. Stephen King

This year, I finally read a novel by the king of horror. You would think, given the fact that I like the genre, I would've gotten here sooner.

(No, Honey, we're all used to your procrastinating ways by now.)

My review for Misery can be found here.

2. Genevieve Cogman



My review for The Invisible Library can be found here.

3. Margaret Atwood
Sometimes, coursebooks are actually enjoyable. 

My review for The Penelopiad can be found here

4. Dawn Kurtagich

Next time I'm looking for suspense and eternally unanswerable questions that will leave be obsessed with finding answers that I don't really want, this is the writer I'll go for.

My review for The Dead House can be found here.

5. Lewis Carroll

No, I didn't read Alice in Wonderland as a child. I have to be honest, it didn't make a lot of sense to me.

(Or any.)

But I think that's the point?
6. Thomas Hardy

This guy needed an editor.

(No. He needed an army of editors.)

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the other end of the coursebook spectrum from The Penelopiad. The oh, God, why side.

7. H.P. Lovecraft

It was...exposition. For 182 pages. Seriously, I was expecting a bone-chilling tale of terror. Instead, I got world-building notes. The narrator was either incredibly perceptive, or he had a copy of the author's notes.
8. Alex Bell

I read this in a day. It was plot-driven, with plenty of suspense to keep you turning the pages. For added creepiness, the ballad and the dolls are real.
My review for Frozen Charlotte can be found here.

9. Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift was a satirist. If you're going to read A Modest Proposal, make sure you go in blind. It won't be anywhere near as brilliant if you know what's coming.

10. V.E. Schwab

I love a good portal fantasy, and this is one with a twist.
My review for A Darker Shade of Magic can be found here.

 Which writers have you picked up for the first time this year? Don't forget to link me to your TTT posts!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Goodbye Guy Fawkes, Hello Santa (Sunday Post #7)


Today, we're looking back over November. Since it's Sunday, we're linking up with Kimberly @ The Caffeinated Book Reviewer for the Sunday Post meme.

November in a Nutshell

I suppose we should start with NaNo. 

I did a hasty victory post the other day, but I didn't go into masses of detail. 

In the end, I didn't write the first draft of a novel. Instead, I wrote several extracts, and a lot of character developing short stories. Honestly? I'm not disappointed. With the way writing has been going this year, I'm just happy that Ivy shut up and allowed me to write 50,000 words.

I did most of my writing to the Hamilton soundtrack. I'd seen it mentioned once or twice around the Blogosphere, but I ended up listening to it by accident when I left Youtube on 'play next video' without realising. It's brilliant to write to because it's so fast. It also talks about writing a lot, so it's brilliantly topical, like writing to Natasha Bedingfield's Unwritten.

On the reading front, I read five books.

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Ways of Sunlight by Sam Selvon (Whenever you see a Selvon book on your reading list, it's a sign that you have been blessed by the Gods.)  
The Dragon Can't Dance by Earl Lovelace
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson - 5 stars (An incredible short story that will have you on the edge of your seat as the suspense builds and builds...)
Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih - 4 stars 

Goodreads Challenge Update

At the beginning of the year, I set my Goodreads challenge at 100 books. As of current, I have read 96 so I'm confident that I'll have hit 100 by the end of the year, if not before I head home for the Christmas holidays.

How was your November? Did you take part in NaNo? Are you on track to complete your Goodreads Challenge? Tell all in the comments.
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