On the Books I Read for High School: Year 13

My final year of high school was my best school reading year yet. I’ve talked about my lacklustre Years 9-11 and my mixed Year 12, so it’s nice to look back and know that I ended high school on a high note.

For English class, I read two novels and one play. Only two were compulsory reads. The first compulsory read was Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I fell for this book. Truly and madly. I thought it was hilarious. I thought it was romantic. I loved the simplicity of the premise and the complexity of its execution.

I also read my first Shakespeare. My teacher picked Othello and I have to admit… I was a wee bit disappointed. Of all his plays that actually intrigued me, Othello didn’t quite make the list. That being said, I didn’t hate Othello. I thought I would, but I didn’t. Although it didn’t really excite me, I did like the different themes and found it an interesting read.

An optional book (for all those opting for a feminist lens when writing comparative essays), was Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. I absolutely devoured this book. Devoured it. I stayed up half the night so that I could finish it in one sitting, and even when I’d finished it I didn’t want to put it down. It made my heart feel heavy.

For Classics, I read three books. We started the year off with Homer’s The Odyssey. Most of the girls in my class weren’t a huge fan of this, but I actually really enjoyed it. I thought it was an epic tale. I thought it was exciting. And I’m so incredibly grateful that I got to read this in class, because I’m not entirely sure that I would’ve got to it otherwise.

We also read Virgil’s The Aeneid. The whole point of the assignment was to compare the two. And to be honest? I found The Aeneid really hard to read. It felt a lot more political (probably because it was) and the plot didn’t feel as fun. There were endless pages of killing and fighting, and while it certainly planned on mythology of the time, it didn’t have that fantastical element that The Odyssey did.

My teacher also recommended that we pick by Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s a spin-off The Aeneid, focusing on Aeneas’ wife, Lavinia. Spin-offs in themselves are always interesting reads, but I do have to say that this one didn’t really grip me. To be fair, that probably has something to do with not particularly enjoying the original.

And there you have it! All the books that I had the great joy (…well, that’s probably pushing it) of reading in high school. My final year was infinitely more enjoyable than the others, and I’m forever grateful to both my English and my Classics teacher for setting texts that pushed me out of my comfort zone.

#BetterWorldBooks Challenge: ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Brontë and ‘Panic’ by Lauren Oliver

A while ago, I posted about the first two books I read for the 2017 BetterWorldBooks challenge. And, surprise! It’s time for me to talk about another two challenges on the list that I’ve fulfilled recently.

The third challenge I opted to complete was to read a book that is more than 100 years old. I do actively try to read books written in various decades and centuries, so picking a book that was over 100 years old was as easy as going to my bookshelf and finding one that I’d maybe been putting off a bit.

In the end, I settled for Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Brontë. I feel like I would’ve enjoyed this a lot more had I not had preconceived notions and expectations for this novel. I wanted this to be my new favourite, you know? I wanted to love this as much as I’d loved Sense and Sensibility and Middlemarch (and we all know that I really loved them).

…I sort of hated it. Okay, okay. ‘Hate’ is putting it way too strongly. It’s a love story. A love story that goes very, very wrong. And even though that’s the sort of summary that usually piques my interest, I just couldn’t get into this. I didn’t connect with the characters, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the writing style, and the plot didn’t blow my mind.

So sure, it was all right. I know there are so many people out there who love this book. It just wasn’t for me.

img_4943It only seemed right to pick (what is, in my mind) the complete opposite of an ageing classic for the next challenge: to read a young adult novel. And yeah, I know that YA isn’t the newest genre on the planet, but no one can deny that its definitely picked up its pace in the past few years.

I decided to pick up Panic by Lauren Oliver. When this book came out, I was stupid excited. I don’t even know why I was excited. Anyway, I was super excited and so, unsurprisingly, I didn’t bother to read it.

The story follows a group of friends. All in their senior year, they have the opportunity to participate in a game: Panic. The game is essentially an extreme version of Dare, and the winning prize is over $60 000. As the game gets more and more dangerous, relationships become more strained, and each character begins to reveal their motives for participating.

It’s an interesting premise and I can see why there was so much hype when this book first came out. My issue was just that I didn’t buy it. The whole competition seemed bizarre to me. With the exception of the money (and to be honest, how the money was acquired also seemed strange), I couldn’t figure out why the hell anyone was bothering with it.

Besides that, I wasn’t invested in the characters at all. So while I appreciate that it was a quick and easy read, it wasn’t one that really thrilled me.

Let me know how your challenges are going! I hope you’re all being pushed out of your reading comfort zones and finding new treasures.

Reading Chinese Classics: ‘The Dream of the Red Chamber’ by Cao Xueqin

In my first post of this series, I talked about reading Six Records of a Floating Life. My next pick was a recommendation from my father, The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin. It’s what I (and no doubt, many others) would call the Chinese classic.

The copy that I decided to go for is translated by H. Bencraft Joly. It took me a while to realise that this version only has the first 56 chapters on this massive saga, and I had to pick up three volumes from Penguin to finish it off.


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I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one. This took me ages to get through. I was reading 100-150 pages a day and even though that’s not usually too much for me, I really struggled.

And so, I found myself breaking this book up a lot with graphic novels and comics. I guess I just needed a break. Seriously, no matter how much I read, for a while there it seriously felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere.

this was just a hard read for me. I found it hard to get involved in the story, I found it hard to keep up with all of the characters (trust me, there are a lot)… And I’ll be honest. I found it hard to keep up with the story and may have opened a CliffNotes tab or two to make sure I was on the right track.

But I was dedicated. I wanted to read it. I wanted to make sure I was understanding the story. I made sure to pick it up at least once a day and to just give it a go.

By the time I’d made my way through Tuttle’s publication and picked up Penguin’s, I was well and truly exhausted by this story. But Penguin’s edition really surprised me. The translation was just so much better.

I just loved it. I loved the characters. After 900 pages of feeling… well, not a lot,  I was finally able to totally fall in love with the romance. I was able to appreciate the characters and what they were going through. I began to see just how far these incredible families were falling. How they were struggling with less cash than they were used to, but had no desire to give up on the high class customs they had grown up with.

Honestly, I just began to recognise it as a damn good story. Who doesn’t love the story of a fall from grace? Who doesn’t love a forbidden romance? Who doesn’t love reading about some poetry, drinking games, and a good old devious plot or two?

This book ended up surprising me in all the best ways. I only wish that I’d started with the Penguin translation!

Have you read this Chinese classic? How did you fare juggling all the characters? Let me know your thoughts!

Review: The Madness of Hallen (The Khalada Stone #1) by Russell Meek

A few years ago, I attended Armageddon in Dunedin. A small convention, there wasn’t a huge amount going on and I don’t recall spending more than a couple of hours there. I did, however, stop by Russell Meek’s booth, where is he was selling copies of his first novel, The Madness of Hallen. He was also taking pre-orders for the sequel.

Three years later, I’d still not picked them up. But after learning that the third volume of the series was soon being released, I finally began to read them.

But honestly? I don’t even want to talk about the book right now. Well, I do, but there’s something I want to talk about first. Russell Meek opted to go down the self-publishing route, but let me tell you, he pulled out all the stops. This book? It’s so incredibly well made. Like, this thing is heavy. And not just because of the book’s size. The pages feel expensive, man. It feels so polished. Honestly, I was just so impressed.



Anyway. Onto the contents. The Madness of Hallen is the first of the Khalada Stone series. It’s a fantasy novel. Not my expertise, but let’s not get too tied up in that fact.

The novel starts off a little slow. Fair enough. It’s fantasy. Fantasy always needs a little time to create a world, y’know? There’s building involved. But eventually things get underway. We get pulled into Orhl and Faerl’s world. There’s a bit of romance (which I totally loved), a bit more action (which was great), and a lot of magic (which was super exciting).

Orhl and Faerl have extraordinary powers, linked to ancient stones. Combined, these ancient stones are the mind of al-Din. But, of course, the mind of the Sword of the Faith is desired by many. It all makes for a pretty thrilling story.

I loved how Meek easily introduced a whole host of characters, carefully juggling perspectives. For me, the transitions were smooth and I found the story, though complex and filled to the brim, easy enough to follow.

The magical elements were, to begin with, a touch confusing. I didn’t always know how exactly it was working or why exactly it was necessary. But as the book progressed, things slowly began to make more sense. And as things made more sense, things became more interesting. While there wasn’t a lot of character development, the world building was really well done, and I feel like the series has a lot of potential.

I already have its sequel, A Brother’s Bond, sitting on my shelf. I’m excited to see how the series progresses! It’s always exciting to see self-published authors doing well, and I whole-heartedly hope that Meek gets the success he deserves.

Let me know if you’ve read this series! Do you make an effort to support self-published authors? Are there any recommendations out there?

Review: ‘Spider-Woman,Volume 1: Switching Gears’ by Dennis Hopeless [Spoilers!]

Warning, warning! This review contains spoilers!

When I first saw Spider-Woman, Volume 1: Switching Gears on a shelf in my local comic store, I basically lost my mind. Seriously, guys. Jessica Drew is pregnant! This is sort of the most exciting premise I’ve seen for a comic in a while.


This collection starts off with Jessica, fully pregnant. She’s frustrated because she feels as if people are babying (haha, see what I did there?) her. It’s at odds with how she feels. Far from taking a break, Jessica still feels ready to kick butt.

I really liked this part. It felt very real. Here she is, trying to balance suddenly being responsible for more than one life, but also not wanting to give up her current lifestyle. She’s a superhero though-and-through, but all of a sudden people are offering to help her walk across the street and carry her groceries.

But of course, Jess gets her chance to kick butt. Carol advises that she to go to this space-hospital. What Carol didn’t know was that this hospital would soon be under attack! Skrulls have taken over the hospital! And Jess (with the occasional help of other expectant mothers) totally saves the day.

To be honest, this particular storyline is why I dropped a full two stars. I just didn’t love it. I mean, come on. Jess is great and would certainly beat me in a fight (not that that’s saying much), but Jess is full-term at this stage. She’s full-term! And then she literally gives birth and five seconds later is back to kicking butt.

I just didn’t buy it. It sounds insane. And while I can’t say I’ve ever read a comic and thought Oh my! How believable!, I also don’t expect to read one and think …what? Seriously? How? Is this a joke? Are you kidding me?.

So while the middle was a bit of a flop for me, the last issue really brought it back home for me. The final issue of the collection shows Jess in full-blown baby mode. She’s totally overwhelmed and unsure of how to care for this kid and care for herself at the same time. This was what I wanted to see right from Issue 1. Instead of a full-term pregnant woman still backflipping and punching her way through life, I wanted to see one of my favourite superheroes figure out how to be a mother while saving the world.

Of course, with some help from a couple of friends, Jess manages to learn how to balance the two. She learns that she doesn’t have to get it right straight away, that she can lean on other people… and that she might not have to give up absolutely everything.

Overall, I think I was a little disappointed with this. But the final issue in this collection made me feel like I’m going to love this series as it continues. I’m super excited to pick up the second volume!

Were you as excited as I was about this premise? If you’ve read it, how did you feel about Jess taking on all those Skrulls? Let me know!

From Manga to Anime: ‘Orange’ by Ichigo Takano [Spoilers!]

Warning, warning! This review contains spoilers!

A few months ago I was sitting on a plane and happened to watch the film, Orange directed by Kojiro Hashimoto. In the next few months, the manga and the anime became wickedly popular. So while my first encounter with the tale was with the film, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the two more popular mediums.

Knowing that the anime was months away from being released, I took the plunge and Orange: The Complete Collection Volumes 1 and 2 during a visit to Dubai.

With the manga, I fell in love with the story all over again. It follows Naho, a relatively girl with a few close friends, who gets a letter from her future-self. The letter, in short, gives her instructions on how to save her new classmate (and crush!), Kakeru, from himself. Add in Suwa, her bestie who’s been in love with her forever, and three other friends (who, to be honest, mostly feel like comic relief) and it all makes for nice story about friendship and romance… it just has a wee bit of a twist.

Can we just talk about Suwa for a minute? Suwa is the freaking MVP in this story, guys. This applies to both the manga and the anime (even  more so with the anime, to be honest), but I just couldn’t wait to talk about him. He is the best flipping friend on the planet.

Like, come on. He’s fancied Naho forever! Then he befriends this new guy, fully knowing that Naho is going to fancy the new guy. Then he helps said new guy hook up with her. Even when new guy flounders and asks him advice a thousand times, Suwa is calm, cool and collected. He just wants his pals to be happy.

I mean, plot-wise? Yeah, no one knows why all the friends didn’t just add a little P.S. to the end of their letters. A little Hi! Everyone wrote letters, by the way! would have gone a long way, am I right? And yeah, there were definitely times when… well, it felt a little contrived. If I were Kakeru, I definitely would’ve questioned why all my pals were suddenly volunteering to run a relay with me. Like, surely a relay isn’t such a big deal, right?

But who cares a few plot-holes? …well, I do. I do a lil. But the rest of the story was enough to make me forget about that for the most part. It was sweet! I loved the friendships and thought the romance was adorable. And it had enough depth to make it more than just a rom-com.


A couple of months later, the anime was released and I pretty much lost my mind. I liked the anime. I really did. I loved the art, I loved the music, I loved the voice actors. There were definitely moments when I thought the pacing was off and the art dipped in quality, but overall I thought everyone did a super good job.

If I’m going to be critical, I did feel like the anime focused a little too much on the romance. Even though it didn’t really stray from the manga all that much, I just sort of got that vibe. A terrible description, I know.

But that extra focus made me feel like the story was almost taking a manic-pixie-dream-girl approach. Even though Naho isn’t that chirpy girl that we associate with the trope, the focus on the romance did imply that she is going save him. That it isn’t going to be the friendship or the memories. That it’s simply because fancies him back.

Maybe I’m looking into it too much. With the Athletics Day and the final episode, the anime definitely redeemed itself on that front, but… oh, there were just moments. There were moments when I was thought: Really? Is the crush really that important?

But overlooking that, I really liked it. I thought it was a really great adaptation of the manga. I especially liked how they handled the time-jumps. I loved the confession scene. Like, come on. Whose heart wasn’t beating through their chest at that one?

Ultimately, I probably enjoyed the manga a touch more than the anime, but I’m still super happy that I watched it. While it had its ups-and-downs, that final episode totally sold it for me. I finished the anime completely and utterly satisfied.

Did you read/watch Orange? Did you think it was worth the hype?

Reading Chinese Classics: ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ by Luo Guanzhong

True to form, I’ve continued with my endeavour to read some Chinese classics. Since reading Six Records of a Floating Life, I decided to bump the standard Four Chinese Classics up my list.  I started with Dream of the Red Chamber, but I had a wee mishap with my edition not being complete.

However, I had Romance of the Three Kingdoms sitting on my shelf, so thought I may as well hurry along with that. I’d picked up the editions printed by Tuttle. They’re split into two volumes, both translated by C. H. Brewitt-Taylor. 



It’s a historical novel, set near the end of the Han dynasty. The dynasty is totally falling apart, and this novel is a dramatisation of all the people who rushed in with their desperate attempts to restore or replace it. It deals with personal drama, family drama, and a lot of battling.

I read the first volume fairly quickly, but I have to admit that it certainly felt like darn hard work to get through. It’s a war novel, y’know? There were a thousands of characters that I only barely remember, all immersed in the complex world of politics and battle.

…it just wasn’t for me. It lacked something that appealed to me. I don’t know enough about the time period and its politics to care enough the historical aspects. I could hardly keep up, let alone actually connect with the characters.

I decided to take the second volume a little more slowly. I read maybe 200 pages a day, and really took the time to make sure I knew exactly what was going on. I reread, I googled… and to be honest? It was still just as confusing as the first volume. I still really struggled. There were times when I didn’t really know who was doing what or why they were doing it.

That being said, I did enjoy the second volume more than I enjoyed the first. I even laughed at one point. Shocking, I know. But I still faced all the problems that I faced with the first volume, and the whole book just felt like a massive (mostly unenjoyable) slog. Most frustrating for me was the translation. I understand that translating is difficult, but there were so many moments in this when the English was just plain awkward.

…a more negative review, I suppose. But this is a classic for a reason. If you are more inclined the books that do have a massive focus on battles and politics (and have an astonishing ability to keep up with thousands of characters), you’re probably going to like this a lot.

But me? I’m just excited to be done and am 110% ready to get on with my next pick.

Let me know if you’ve read this! Did you enjoy it more than I did?