books

O.W.L.’s Magical Readathon 2020

The O.W.L.’s Magical Readathon returns next month! This month-long readathon is the brainchild of Gi at Book Roast on YouTube and it’s the third year it’s happened. Last year was the first year I took part and after successfully completing my O.W.L.’s and N.E.W.T.’s I qualified to be a Ministry Worker in the Department of International Magical Cooperation.

The challenge is based on the Hogwarts examinations in the world of Harry Potter, but you don’t need to know a lot about it or be a Harry Potter fan to take part in the challenge. The basic premise is that each Hogwarts subject has its own prompt, you read a book that fits that prompt and then you’ve achieved an O.W.L. in that subject. This readathon lasts the entirety of April so it gives you plenty of time to try and cram in as many O.W.L.’s aka books as possible. For more information on the readathon see Gi’s announcement video. It’s clear she puts in a lot of work into this challenge, she makes study guides and a career guide that has information on lots of magical careers and the subjects you need to study in order to be able to progress in that career.

This year there’s some new careers and bonus courses, seminars and training if you want to challenge yourself. I’ve decided that my chosen career this year is Mage of Visual Arts. This sounds like a fun career as you make the pictures and portraits move and it’s the most like the muggle world of film. The O.W.L.’s I need to earn are in Astronomy, Charms, Divination, and History of Magic. That’s four books I need to read but I would also like to push myself and do an extra training course. I would like to learn to operate locomotive trains aka the Hogwarts Express. I love driving cars, so as there’s no course on learning how to drive a flying car (yet!) it’d be fun to learn how to drive a train. The O.W.L.’s I need for that are Defence Against the Dark Arts and Muggle Studies. So, the total number of books I need to read in April is six. That’s doable for me.

I’ve had a look at my bookshelves and below are the books I plan to read to get my O.W.L.’s to become a Mage of Visual Arts. I’ve also got books for the other O.W.L.’s in case I do better than expected and can fit in a couple more books during the month.

Ancient Runes – Heart rune: heart on the cover or in the title
A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney
I’m reaching a bit here, but it has the word “heart” and a heart shaped key on the cover, so I think it counts. I read A Blade So Black last year for my N.E.W.T.’s so it’d be cool to read the sequel for my O.W.L.’s.

Arithmancy – Magical qualities of number 2: balance/opposites – read something outside your favourite genre
Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
I’m not even sure what my favourite genre is anymore (I’m going to probably do a blog post about that at some point) but a genre I don’t read that often is sci-fi so that’s the reason I’ve chosen Gemina.

Astronomy – Night classes: read majority of this book when it’s dark outside
Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki
This book is relatively short at 240 pages and is about sisters growing up in the countryside in Athens before the Second World War.

Care of Magical Creatures – Hippogriffs: creature with a beak on the cover
Infinite Son by Adam Silvera
After going through all my books because I really wasn’t sure if I had a book that had creature with a beak, I found one!

Charms – Lumos Maxima: white cover
The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan or The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak
The Bloodprint is a book I bought just because the cover was super pretty and all I know is it’s a fantasy. The Architect’s Apprentice is a historical fiction and is set during the Ottoman Empire. Both have white covers.

Defence Against the Dark Arts – Grindylows: book set at the sea/coast
Viper by Bex Hogan or The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan
Both books take place on islands and heavily involve the sea. I think Viper is more of a pirate book while The Gloaming is more of a mermaid/fairy tale book – I think!

Divination – Third eye: assign numbers to your TBR and use a random number generator to pick your read
Hawkeye: Avenging Archer by Jim McCann, David Lopez, Duane Swierczynski, Manuel Garcia and Paco Diaz
Putting together all the unread books I have on my kindle, on audio and in my flat (there’s more unread books at my mum’s) I had 47 books for the random number generator to choose from. It picked number 17 which was Hawkeye: Avenging Archer which I couldn’t have picked better myself as comics/graphic novels are always a good idea in a readathon.

Herbology – Mimbulus mimbletonia: title starts with an M
Mama Hissa’s Mice by Saud Alsanousi
Turns out I have one book that has a title that begins with the letter M so I guess I’m going to be reading Mama Hissa’s Mice.

History of Magic – Witch hunts: book featuring witches/wizards
Angel Mage by Garth Nix or Truthwitch by Susan Dennard or mystery book
This one was surprisingly difficult. I’m not sure if Angel Mage has witches or wizards in it but there is magic. Based on the title and the premise I’m pretty sure Truthwitch features witches. Or the last witchy-book I could read for this prompt is one I don’t have yet. I’ve ordered April’s Wildest Dreams book box and the book apparently has “Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels” so that could work too.

Muggle Studies – Book from a perspective of a muggle (contemporary)
The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne
This looks like it’s a sad contemporary about a relationship that’s ending and it’s potentially wasn’t a healthy relationship either.

Potions – Shrinking Solution: book under 150 pages
A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
I’ve got A Small Place on audiobook and according to Goodreads it is 81 pages long so definitely works for this challenge.

Transfiguration – Animagus lecture: book/series that includes shapeshifting
Downfall by Rob Thurman or The Invasion by K.A. Applegate
This subject was hard to find a book for as I don’t really read many books with shapeshifting in them and I don’t think any of my unread books have it in either. After looking at my bookshelves, the only book I could find that would fit was Downfall. It’s an urban fantasy and I remember earlier on in the series there were werewolves so that’d count. The other option is the fact I recently learnt that apparently all the Animorphs books are available online for free. Animorphs isn’t a series I read as a child but I have vague memories of the TV show, and as they’re children’s books they’re likely to be short and easy to read (which is always a good thing for a readathon) so I could pick up the first book in the series.

That’s my TBR for this years’ O.W.L.’s Magical Readathon. Are you taking part in the readathon and what career are you aiming for? In August there’s the N.E.W.T.’s which can be even more challenging and will be the final hurdle for achieving your chosen career. Wish me luck!

Books of 2020

Here are all the books I read this year. My main reading goal for this year is to focus on my Read the World Project as I have over 100 books to read (and review) in less than two years if I want to meet my self-imposed goal. You can find out more about what I’m reading on my Twitter and Goodreads.

Without further ado, here’s what I read in 2020! Any titles with asterisks are rereads and if it has a link, that goes to my review.

January:
Only God Can Make a Tree – Bertram Roach
– The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
They Called Us Enemy – George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott and Harmony Becker
Night, Again edited – Linh Dinh

February:
The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History – Aida Edemariam
The Conspiracy – Israel Centeno
Love in No Man’s Land – Duo Ji Zhuo Ga
The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

March:
Notes of a Crocodile – Qiu Miaojin
Transparent City – Ondjaki

Currently reading:
– The Eighth Life – Nino Haratischwili
– The Door – Magda Szabó

Books read: 10/60
Books reviewed: 9/30

My Reading in 2019 and my Bookish Goals for 2020

It’s the start of a new year which means it’s time to look back at the past one. Today I’m looking at what I read last year, if I met my goals and what my reading plans are for this year. In 2019 I read 72 books (bang on the same amount as 2018 funnily enough) which beat my Goodreads goal of 52 books, and I reviewed 46 of them which beat my goal of reviewing 26. You can find a full list of what I read here (the links go to the reviews) and I shared what are my top ten favourite books of the year earlier this week. The OWLs and the NEWTs readathons certainly helped me have good reading months, and in June I was on holiday where I read 8 books in 10 days.

I didn’t really have reading challenges or goals for 2019 – especially compared to 2018 when I had like three things I signed up for! In 2019 I continued to put £1 in a pot for every book I read meaning I had £72 to put in the bank. I’m sure I’ll use that money to buy more books. I continued with the Read the World Project and almost half of all the books I read in 2019 counted towards that project. I read 35 from different countries. Once again, I tried to get my TBR down to 50 books from 100 books and after Christmas gifts, my TBR now stands at 85 books. So at least it went down!

I always try to keep an equal split of male/female authors that I read and I succeeded at that in 2019. In fact, it was more female heavy which is fine by me. In 2019 I also kept track of whether the books I was reading were by white authors or authors of colour. In my goals last year I said I wanted at least 25% of the books I read to be by people of colour. I’m happy to say I achieved that and 40% of the books I read (which makes 29 of them) were by people of colour. I think my Read the World project definitely helps with this.

Now for my reading goals of 2020.

My reading goals aren’t that different to what they’ve been the last few years to be honest. I’m going to continue to put a £1 in a jar for every book I read, and I’m going to increase my Goodreads challenge goal a bit and want to read at least 60 books and to review at least 30 of them. I also want to continue to read books from at least an equal split of men and women authors, and to have at least 30% of the books I read are by people of colour. I’ll also say (once again) that I’d like to get my TBR down to 50 books. I did make some headway with my TBR in 2019 so I hope I can continue that trend, or at least be more open to unhauling books I have no interest in anymore. I’m not signing up to any year-long challenges but I think I will join many readathons throughout the year to give me that extra push to read.

In 2019 I hit 100 countries read for my Read the World Project! I’m so happy with that number but I do have 122 countries to read in the next 21 months if I want to meet myself imposed deadline. I own books for 6 more countries, but I have many more on my radar so reading books for my Read the World project will definitely be a priority this year. Really, I need to read at least 60 books for this challenge to make my deadline of reading a book from every country in the world before my 30th birthday. I’m not sure if that’ll happen but I hope it will. If you have any suggestions for books from around the world, I’d love to hear them! You can see what countries I’ve already read here.

Those are my reading goals for 2020. Do you have any reading goals for the year? I’m always interested in the reading goals people set themselves and if they have any tips or tricks to help them achieve them.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Favourite Books I Read in 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. And so another year comes to an end so it’s time to look back at the books I read this year and figure out what were my favourites. Without further ado, in no real particular order, here’s my favourite books of 2019 and I’ve linked back to my reviews (if I reviewed them that is!).

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven
The Exact Opposite of Okay was one of the first books I read this year and it has stuck with me since then. I thought it handled the subject of revenge porn so well while still having a main character that was sarcastic and strong while still hurting. Think this (and its sequel which is also great) will be all-time favourites.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
I’m probably one of the last people to read this book but I definitely got why Children of Blood and Bone received so much hype. It was a gripping magical adventure and though I didn’t like the romance at all, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Safe as Houses by Simone van der Vlugt
This was a creepy thriller and one where it was so tense and that all hope seemed to be lost for so long that I wasn’t even sure if everything would turn out OK in the end.

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Considering I found The Shadow of the Wind tough to get through (enjoyable but slow-going) I found The Angel’s Game to be so readable. I loved the mystery, the setting and how it linked to The Shadow of the Wind.

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham
I’d not read a John Grisham book before but this one was great. It was gripping and intriguing and I was never really sure how the central court case would end up.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
This is the kind of book that makes me want to read more science-fiction. The characters, the setting, the writing; it was all so good. I want to read the next books in this sort-of series but as I’m so bad at reading series we will see how soon that happens!

Internment by Samira Ahmed
This book was tough to get through at times because it unfortunately felt so close to our reality. It was a gripping book though with characters you couldn’t help but root for.

Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal: The Lives and Careers of Two Tennis Legends by Sebastián Fest
I went to the Laver Cup in Geneva and had such an amazing time watching tennis legends Federer and Nadal play. Before I went, I read this book and found it a fascinating insight into the two of them and their legacies.

Old Man Hawkeye Volumes 1 and 2 by Ethan Sacks, Marco Checchetto, Andres Mossa, Francesco Mobili and Ibraim Roberson
I didn’t read a lot of graphic novels or comics this year, but I did read all of the Old Man Hawkeye series. It’s a prequel to Old Man Logan (which I also really liked) and I thought it did a great job at connecting to story while adding new things. Plus, it focussed on Hawkeye, an older-version of Hawkeye but one that still is Clint Barton deep down.

What are some of your favourite books you read this year?

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I Hope to Find Under My Tree

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week it’s all about the books we’d love to receive for Christmas. I signed up for the TBTB Secret Santa again this year and as of writing and scheduling this post, I haven’t opened my parcel so some of these books may now be in my possession which is very exciting. Nowadays my bookish wishlist is always a combination of books from international authors for my Read the World Project and anything else that grabs my fancy.

Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo
This is the first novel from Madagascar ever to be translated into English and is about the brutal history of 19th-century Madagascar.

The Conspiracy by Israel Centeno
A thriller about a would-be revolutionary sniper who misses his shot on the President of Venezuela and must hide from the authorities and former friends who are out for revenge.

The End of the Dark Era by Tsveendorjin Oidov
This is a book of Mongolian poetry and that’s all I know about it!

A Girl Called Eel by Ali Zamir
This book is apparently a story told in a single sentence, which may be a bit difficult for me to read because paragraph breaks are my friend, but it’s from an author from the Comoros Islands so I’m intrigued.

Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad by Krystal A. Sital
A memoir about a grandmother, mother and daughter who learn long-buried secrets about the family’s past.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
I feel this book needs no introduction as it’s been everywhere! It’s an epic fantasy inspired by Chinese history and I do love to get immersed in a fantasy epic every now and then.

Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller
I love contemporary YA about girls helping one another out as they tackle some big real-world problems. This one is about teen pregnancy and how difficult it is getting an abortion and having to deal with the emotions surrounding it.

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
This is an alternate-history where extinction-level global warning gets kickstarted by a meteor strike in 1952 and women become involved with the mission to colonise the Moon and then Mars.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
A story about a monster hunter in an apocalyptic world where gods and monsters of Native American folklore roam the Earth.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
This YA romance seems to have been everywhere this year and I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things and while I rarely read romance, this seems so sweet and funny that I want to give it a go.

What books are you hoping are going to come into your life soon?

N.E.W.T.’s Magical Readathon 2019

The N.E.W.T.’s Magical Readathon is the brainchild of Gi at BookRoast on YouTube. The N.E.W.T.’s are the next exams/readathon after the O.W.L.’s which took place a few months ago.

The basic premise is that each Hogwarts subject has three prompts one to get an Acceptable in the subject, one to get Exceeded Expectations and one to get an Outstanding grade in that subject, and you have to read the books/prompts in order so read the Exceeded Expectations book after the Acceptable book etc. This readathon lasts the entirety of August so it gives you plenty of time to try and cram in as many N.E.W.T.’s as possible. For more information on the readathon see Gi’s announcement video. It’s clear she puts in a lot of work into this challenge, she makes study guides and a career guide that has information on lots of magical careers and the subjects you need to study in order to be able to progress in that career.

After taking part in the O.W.L.’s readathon in April and successfully reading all the books/completing all the exams I need to be a Ministry Worker in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, I now need to achieve Acceptable in five subjects – Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Muggle Studies, Potions and Transfiguration – and achieve Acceptable, Exceeded Expectations and Outstanding in History of Magic. That means if I want to be qualified for my dream magical career, I need to read eight books during the readathon. That’s doable for me. I think.

Charms: Acceptable – Read a book you think has a gorgeous cover
A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
I adore this cover! I read this book’s prologue a couple of months ago on a plane and was intrigued but for some reason I didn’t continue reading it then – story of my life!

Defence Against the Dark Arts: Acceptable – Read a book that’s black under the dustjacket
This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab
I had to go through my various unread hardbacks to find one that’s black under the dustjacket. I remember starting This Savage Song when I first got it but the story didn’t really grab me so hopefully I’m more into it now.

Muggle Studies: Acceptable – Cover that includes a photo element
Where She Went by Gayle Foreman OR Night, Again edited by Linh Dinh
I read If I Stay way back in 2014 and downloaded the sequel onto my kindle straightaway but never read it. The film adaptation of If I Stay is currently available on Amazon Prime Video so I’ll probably watch that before August so I’m not going into Where She Went completely blind because I remember nothing from the first book. Night, Again is a collection of short stories from Vietnam so would be my one and only read for the Read the World Project during the N.E.W.T.’s.

Potions: Acceptable – Read a friend’s favourite book
The Runaway Jury by John Grisham
This is one of my friend Nistasha’s favourite John Grisham books and she even sent me a copy! At over 500 pages it’s a bit of a chunky one for a readathon but with rumours that Tome Topple will be happening in August as well I should be able to get through it.

Transfiguration: Acceptable – Read a book with LGBTQIA+ representation
Golden Boy Abigail Tarttelin by OR Birthday by Meredith Russo
The main character in Golden Boy is intersex and this book has been on my shelves for years so this readathon might be the perfect time to read it. Birthday is a book I got recently in a subscription box and I don’t know what the LGBTQIA+ representation is in it; I just know it has that tag on Goodreads.

History of Magic: Acceptable – Read a fantasy
To Best the Boys by Mary Webber OR Ruined by Amy Tintera OR Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
It turns out I have a lot of unread fantasy on my shelves and all of these are from subscription boxes over the years. I’m not sure which one I’ll read as I have no strong feelings towards any of them at the minute, so I’ probably pick up whichever is shortest. If you have any suggestions let me know or I might just end up doing a Twitter poll to decide.

History of Magic: Exceeded Expectations – Read a book with a map in it
Flashfall by Jenny Moyer
After going through all the unread books I have that I thought might have a map in it, this is the only one that did!

History of Magic: Outstanding – Reread a favourite/read a classic
The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman
I‘m currently rereading the His Dark Materials series via audiobook from my library so hopefully The Amber Spyglass will be available to borrow and read in August. The series was one of my childhood favourites and it’s been over 15 years since I read them. If the audiobook isn’t available, I’ll have to have a rethink as I don’t often reread books – even my favourites! There’s a lot of classics available to borrow on audio from my library though so I’m sure I’ll be able to get one of them if needed.

That’s my TBR for the N.E.W.T.’s Magical Readathon and my TBR for the month of August to be honest. I can read eight books in a month and this looks like it’ll be a good mixture of genres to keep me entertained. There are a couple of contemporary books which I always fly through and a lot of these are books that have been on my TBR for the longest time so it would give me an extra buzz if I did finally read them. I will keep track of my progress on Twitter and will probably do a thread like I did for my O.W.L.’s.

Are you taking part in the N.E.W.T.’s Magical Readathon? If you are, I hope the exams for your chosen career path isn’t too taxing and you have a successful month of reading.

O.W.L.’s Magical Readathon 2019

The O.W.L.’s Magical Readathon is the invention of Gi at Book Roast on YouTube. It’s a challenge I heard about last year, but I wasn’t aware of it in time to take part – this year I’m more prepared! The challenge is based on the Hogwarts examinations in the Harry Potter series but you neither have had to have read the Harry Potter books or be a Harry Potter fan to take part.

The basic premise is that each Hogwarts subject has its own prompt, you read a book that fits that prompt and then you’ve achieved an O.W.L. in that subject. This readathon lasts the entirety of April so it gives you plenty of time to try and cram in as many O.W.L.’s as possible. For more information on the readathon see Gi’s announcement video. It’s clear she puts in a lot of work into this challenge, she makes study guides and a career guide that has information on lots of magical careers and the subjects you need to study in order to be able to progress in that career.

The career I’ve chosen is Ministry Worker with the idea that I’d specialise to be able to join the Department of International Magical Cooperation after taking my N.E.W.T.’s in August. That means I’ll need O.W.L.’s in Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts, History of Magic, Potions, Transfiguration and Muggle Studies – meaning my aim is to read six books for this challenge.

I’ve had a look at my bookshelves and theoretically I would be able to get 11 out of 12 O.W.L.’s based on the books on my TBR. Below are the books I plan to read to get my O.W.L.’s for my Ministry Worker job, but also the books for the other O.W.L.’s in case I do better than expected and can fit in a couple more books during the month.

Ancient Runes – Retelling
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi
As the title suggests it’s a Frankenstein retelling. This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for ages so even though it doesn’t fit with my chosen career path, if I finish the O.W.L.’s/books I have to read, this will be my priority.

Arithmancy – Work written by more than one author
Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam edited by Linh Dinh
A collection of short stories from Vietnamese writers.

Astronomy – “Star” in the title
This is the one subject I don’t have a book that would fit so any careers that needed an Astronomy O.W.L. was automatically ignored.

Care of Magical Creatures – Land animal on the cover
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
Technically I think this could also work for retelling (though you’re not allowed to use the same book for multiple prompts) as it’s inspired by the Evil Queen in Snow White I think? It’s a book I got from a subscription box a while ago and I’m pretty sure it’s the only book I’ve got with an animal on the cover.

Charms – Age-line: read an adult work
Augustown by Kei Miller
I actually tend to read mostly adult books so the way I chose this book was to find one of the shorter adult books I have – at just over 200 pages, Augustown was the winner.

Defence Against the Dark Arts – Reducto: title starts with a “R”
The Red Beach Hut by Lynn Michell
This is the only book I’ve got that has a title that begins with the letter R. I was pleased I found a book as Defence Against the Dark Arts is a subject needed for many career paths.

Divination – Set in the future
Old Man Hawkeye Vol. 1: An Eye for an Eye by Ethan Sacks, Marco Checchetto and Andres Mossa
Comics are totally allowed for this readathon which is great. I recently bought a bunch of Hawkeye-related comics and this one is set in an apocalyptic future where nearly all of the superheroes are dead.

Herbology – Plant on the cover
West Coast Avengers Vol. 1: Best Coast by Kelly Thompson, Stefano Caselli and Tríona Farrell
Another one from my Hawkey-binge-buy as he’s a part of this team. It has some palm trees on the front which totally counts as a plant.

History of Magic – Published at least 10 years ago
Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
It’s a classic so it’s definitely over 10 years old. Plus it’s pretty short which is always helpful for a readathon.

Muggle studies – Contemporary
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
I received this in a subscription box a while back and know nothing about it except it’s the shortest contemporary book I have on my TBR. I read We Were Liars years ago and sped through it so hopefully the same thing will happen with this book.

Potions – Next ingredient: sequel
Old Man Hawkeye Vol. 2: The Whole World Blind by Ethan Sacks, Marco Checchetto, Francesco Mobili and Ibraim Roberson
I don’t actually have many sequels (because I’m terrible at reading series) so my recent comic book purchases have definitely come in handy here.

Transfiguration – Sprayed edges or red cover
The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
This is the longest book on this TBR but it’s one of the only books I have that has a red cover. There’s rumours that the Tome Topple Readathon will happen in April so as The Angel’s Game is over 500 pages, that’ll hopefully give me an extra push to read it.

So, this is my TBR for the O.W.L.’s Magical Readathon and pretty much my TBR for the whole month of April. Are you taking part in the readathon and if you are which O.W.L.’s are you focusing on? In August there’s the N.E.W.T.’s readathon which you use to build on what you achieve in this readathon, so I hope I manage to read all the books I need to be able to apply for a job at the Ministry of Magic.