Happy New Year and 2019 Goals

The first day of 2019 has almost come to an end here in Australia. I had been trying to think of an end of year post like I usually do for the past few days but I got myself a tad distracted by the celebrations and never got around to it. All is good though, it was a great year, I really feel like I have found my feet so to speak and I am really proud of what I managed to achieve. I posted more content and more consistently than in previous years, I read over 160 books which is the highest I’ve done on a Goodreads challenge before, I completed my Book Bingo card for the first time, exceeded my AWW 2018 Challenge, and looking at my stats the number of visitors to my blog is steadily growing which is amazing. Another fun little achievement was that I hit 500 reviews on Goodreads after setting myself to reach the goal in August when I noticed it was 407, just 93 away.

With the new year comes all the reading and blogging goals I try and lay out that I want to achieve this year. Today I’ve been thinking about what I would like to achieve, what would be fun, rewarding, and looking at what I have tried (and often failed) to do in the past. For 2019 I am aiming for goals that are simple and (hopefully) manageable because while they are not a grand challenge, they will tick off boxes and give great satisfaction.

I have three main ones, and then a few minor ones that I am aiming for.

Finishing Series

I am in the middle of all of these because I am a Bad Reader. I do want to finish these series but for one reason or another I have been held up, distracted, or just never had a real desire to keep going. This year I am going to aim to finish most of these. There’s probably so many more but these ones I want to finish so it’s a good starting point.

Charlie Parker
I have read a couple of these and I loved them but then I kept reading other things and I’m so far behind because Connolly Keeps. Adding. More. Books. If I get going with a few hopefully I will be so invested again I will keep up the momentum.

Cinder
I own this entire series and yet I still have not finished it. I enjoyed Cinder and I want to keep going but something has stopped me one way or another. This year though I will endeavour to keep going because everyone raves about it and I love a good fairytale retelling.

A Court of Thorns and Roses
I will admit I got a bit bored reading the first book and so I may have put it down and never picked it back up, but I might not have been paying enough attention. I will try again and see if I can finish the series this year.

Obernewtyn
I trailed away from book two cause it was a teeny bit dull but I will push through because I said I’d give the series a chance and I will. But I don’t think I could make myself read all 7 if they are really not enjoyable.

Parasol Protectorate
I adored book one and I have tracked down a copy of book two so I am ready to go. I tried a few times through the previous year to get book two and start reading but it just never happened. I love these characters and need to see the next adventure so I will find a way.

Nursery Rhyme Crimes
Fforde is a genius and all of his books are divine masterpieces and the first book in this series was no exception. I so often praise the first books yet don’t pick up the second.  There are only three in the series (for now) I don’t know how I resisted the charms of nursery rhyme crime for so long. I certainly must finish the set.

The Four Kingdoms
I have read 2 of these and Cellier is brilliant in her fairytale retellings and I am definitely tracking down the others to finish this series.

Miss Peregrine
I got the latest book in the series for Chrissy so with that motivation I am going to finish the rest of the books so I can read my new copy. Whatever motivation works, right?

Rereading 

I am always up for a reread of books but then the little voice pops into my head telling me to read the books I haven’t read first. But that desire is always there, itching to revisit some of my favourite worlds, characters, and stories. These are just some of the books I want to reread but I am also open to any stand alones that come across my path.

Thursday Next Series
I need to revisit the Thursday Next series because it is possible one of my favourite series up there with HDM, Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter. I don’t think I could emotionally go through HDM again so soon and I did a Harry Potter reread last year so it was a tossup between Thursday Next and Artemis. My desire to read about Thursday is stronger than Artemis. Maybe I can prompt the universe to get Fforde to finish book eight because I have a mighty need for the next book which I’ve been waiting for since 2013 which will no doubt be mightier by the time I finish them again. I can see another 14 year wait like Pullman’s The Book of Dust. I might be ok with that if I know it is going to come for certain.

Mary Poppins Series
I recently saw the new film Mary Poppins Returns which was incredible. This prompted me to watch the original again which is also incredible. This is turn now makes me want to revisit the books because they were a delight and were so brash and unforgiving at times but also filled with magic and fun. I can never have too much Mary Poppins in my life right now.

Recapping Book Events

I have finally (after five years of working it out) found a rhythm in terms of reviewing, scheduling, content and all things blog. And yet, I still keep forgetting to do posts about book events I go to and so a lot gets left out, but that is one of the things I want to work on because I used to be very good at it so I want to return to sharing my experiences. Things like the Newcastle and Sydney Writer’s Events that I take page after page of notes for yet never put out there for others to enjoy. Or the book launches and author talks that I always plan to recap and yet never get around to it and then weeks have past and it feels too late. I am aiming to improve my neglect and share some of these experiences I have been fortunate enough to attend.

 

These three things are my very basic and easy to achieve goals. On top of that I have my usual Book Bingo and AWW Challenge which I’m counting separately. I also want to try and read more books when they first come out, review current titles while they are still relevant. This will be a footnote kind of goal that I’ll keep in mind on the side.

I look forward to revisiting this post in December to see just how much I have achieved and how I may have strayed from my path, or, I might have created a newer, better one, I just don’t know. Do you have any blogging or reading goals you would like to achieve in 2019? Let me know in the comments.

The Woman Who Died A Lot (#7) by Jasper Fforde

Published: January 31st 2013
Goodreads badgePublisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Pages: 380
Format: Book
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

The Bookworld’s leading enforcement officer Thursday Next is four months into an enforced semi-retirement following a near fatal assassination attempt. She returns home to Swindon for what you’d expect to be a time of recuperation and rest. If only life were that simple. Thursday is faced with an array of family problems – her son Friday’s lack of focus since his career in the Chronoguard was relegated to a might-have-been, daughter Tuesday’s difficulty perfecting the Anti-Smote shield needed in time to thwart an angry Deity’s promise to wipe Swindon off the face of the earth, and Jenny, who doesn’t exist except as a confusing memory. And that’s not all. With Goliath attempting to replace Thursday at every opportunity with synthetic Thursdays, the prediction that Friday’s Destiny-Aware colleagues will die in mysterious circumstances, and a looming meteorite that could destroy all human life on earth, Thursday’s retirement is going to be anything but easy. If you thought dealing with the Bookworld could be hard, wait until you see what it takes to be a mother.

I wanted to read this book so badly that I drove an hour round trip this morning to get my hands on it. That is the result of the previous book and the fact I was so engrossed in this series once again I couldn’t bear leaving it any longer to read the latest book. I finished it by early evening too, because that is what Jasper does. You can force yourself to stop in between books (if you must) but once you start, you cannot put it down.

The Woman Who Died A Lot effectively is showing the effect and consequences of the events in First Among Sequels, and also the aftermath of One of Our Thursdays is Missing. The events of One of Our Thursdays Is Missing act as a buffer between the two, still important, but in an abstract kind of way.

As usual in the Thursday world there are six things going on at once that you must keep track of. The wrath is due Friday, the library is armed to the teeth, there are cross-dressing nuns, and forgetting why you walked into a room suddenly makes so much more sense. There is the word foible, the ongoing issue of the Stupidity Surplus, and someone is finally getting angry about making Enid Blyton politically correct. There is something in this for everyone.

The tone and writing takes a little while to feel natural this time around, I don’t know why exactly but the recapping that Jasper has always been good at seems a bit out of place. It reads ever so slightly as if directed at a reader who has not read the series before. While the other books offered a simple reminder about what had happened within the story itself, The Woman Who Died A Lot tends to describe things as if we did not know them already. This is only for the early section of the book mind you and the fluidity returns soon enough, but it did have me worried for awhile that the magic had vanished.

There is no point pretending this book is not different. As much as you wish and fondly remember the Thursday adventures from the earlier books you have to accept that realistically it was almost twenty years previous, and things change. The large jump into the future throws you slightly because we haven’t had the time to get used to the aging Thursday. There was a gradual change in some respects but we are also suddenly presented with the middle aged woman who is struggling to be as she was; granted it was due to the events of the previous book so you can’t be too harsh, but it does make you remember how she once was. I think if she had recovered instantly it would have been worse, so I am happy to take the person she is now because you can see the Thursday that once was within her still.

This is just as a character of course, story wise there is mystery and chaos as before, perhaps in a different style but chaos nonetheless. Things from past books are brought up and ongoing issues still present themselves but that is part of the familiar joy. The content lends itself to all manner of strangeness so asking for any sense of normalcy is out of the question. What Jasper does is he likes to drop bombs on you and then keep moving as if nothing has happened. All the while you are jumping up and down three pages behind demanding answers you know full well he isn’t going to give you. The worst part is that even when you think you have an inkling about what is going on, Jasper won’t give you anything to confirm or deny this. He lets you make up theories and explanations of your own and teases you with tantalising clues that make you impatient but over excited at the same time. It is his devilish way.

The RealWorld of the past is different as the years have passed but there are still some familiar faces. Circumstances change and people adapt, there is not a lot you can do about it. But no matter what happens, don’t ever start to worry about Jasper and his books, even if you get doubtful of where things are going and worry that he’s losing his touch, you just need to get to the end because by then your view would have completely changed and you will be out of your mind with excitement and amazement and joy that you can hardly sit still and will complain when dinner is called and you have 13 pages to go. Trust in Jasper, there is a reason he does what he does and you just have to follow him where he leads you; which is now into a state of impatience while I wait for him to write the next book!

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing (#6) by Jasper Fforde

Published: 10 November 2011
Goodreads badgePublisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Pages: 385
Format: Book
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Only the diplomatic skills of ace literary detective Thursday Next can avert a devastating genre war. But a week before the peace talks, Thursday vanishes. Has she simply returned home to the RealWorld or is this something more sinister?

All is not yet lost. Living at the quiet end of the speculative fiction is the written Thursday Next, eager to prove herself worthy of her illustrious namesake.

The fictional Thursday is soon hot on the trail of her factual alter-ego, and quickly stumbles upon a plot so fiendish that it threatens the very BookWorld itself.

Let’s start by saying this: who knew reading could be so complex?

From the beginning chapters, and really the title and spoiler blurb on the back of the book, we find out that Thursday Next is missing. However due to the books she’s written there is a Thursday who can take her place until she is found. This instantly changes the tone of the book as the new Thursday takes over as narrative voice. Despite looking like the Real Thursday, her written counterpart has a much different personality, and this is reflected in the narrative voice. As I started reading, I had a constant feeling of discomfort as I read because I felt like something was off. It wasn’t until much later that I realised it was because it was a different Thursday altogether. I think if Jasper had tried to write using the Thursday style I had grown accustomed to in the past five books it would not be believable. Of course the tone would be different, because the narrator was a different person, despite looking exactly the same. I am not saying this is a bad thing at all, it was a little bit like going through the Looking Glass, it is very familiar, but it wasn’t at the same time. Actually, pretty much the entire novel felt like that.

With the main protagonist missing, we are taken away from the official and policing part of BookWorld, and instead we are given a civilian point of view. I do think having anything too much like the past books would have felt very out of place in this unfamiliar world. Even when written Thursday meets people from real Thursday’s world you can feel the difference. You really get the sense she is a different person trying to be someone else, and outsider looking in the window, yet still somehow participating.

I did find myself missing the old Book World, despite us never really getting an expansive description of it before. A lot of the previous books consisted of jumping from one to the other with few stable points of reference like the Great Library. There was nothing wrong with the new BookWorld certainly. it just took a little getting used to. I understand why it had to be done though; story wise I can see that the old set up probably would not have been possible considering the plot, and certainly not make half the things in the narrative possible. So in that regard I am fine with the changes, but a small part of me missed it. I think the other part is I just missed the Real Thursday, familiar characters, the Jurisfiction and official side of BookWorld. As much as I loved seeing the Book World from the civilian and written characters perspective, after five books focusing on one side, it was an adjustment seeing the flip side.

Don’t get me wrong, it was brilliant all the same. Once you take the story as it is you began to see the immense effort Jasper had gone to. The detail in this book is astounding. It is not even always relevant, but the descriptions and the minute things like street names or conversations and logic that you tend to just brush over, yet have probably needed just as much thought as the narrative itself. I can’t even begin to list the detail Jasper has put into the BookWorld and the novel itself this time around. Something that I thought was truly beautiful was the way the RealWorld is described through Jasper’s BookWorld descriptions. His descriptions of everyday life and activities are rather poetic, which considering how poetry is viewed in these books, shouldn’t be taken as an insult. The wriggling in your seat excitement returns, not entirely through the whole book, but enough and in the right places to make you grin like the Cheshire Cat filled with warm bubbles.

The fact that this book is similar yet very different to the others works well for the BookWorld’s advantage. As readers we are given a full layout and story in this world from the point of view of the characters that live in it. They are the fictional counterparts of all the books, and while there is the mystery to be solved, the reality is we are given a complete breakdown and introduction to the Book World we have only seen glimpses of in the past, and all in the name of solving the mystery. This is something Jasper is very good at, telling us what we need to know but without interrupting the story’s flow. A lot is revealed from past books that you didn’t even realise needed to be solved, but there is also a few unanswered things as well.  There were some unrelated revelations though. We have finally discovered an explanation of how there, their and they’re problems arise in the RealWorld, discover how important syntax is, and how Malapropism is funny, but also makes conversation a little trying. We get to see the dangers of comedy, realise that yes, clowns are an offset of the Horror genre, that humans in a crowd are very much like starling and fish, and the awkward back and forth shuffle between two people on the street is not as simple as it makes out to be.

I really do not want to give any more away for fear of spoilers, but in all truthfulness there is also no time. There is just so much beautiful description, so much detail, imagination, forethought, genius, humour, absurdity, and amazement in this book that you wouldn’t even know where to begin telling you about it all. Even if I did explain them all and gush over their awesomeness, it’d take the joy away from discovering them yourselves and admiring Jasper in your own way. Not all of them even ruin plot, it’s just simple pleasures in the BookWorld life and the story itself that is being told.

A lot of the story seems rather normal for the most part, but then you come to a point where you start to doubt everything you had accepted as true. I entered into this story blindly and accepted what Jasper told me as per usual, when he starts to mess with you there is nothing else to do except try and solve the puzzle or just accept defeat and just read on in confused acceptance until he wants you to know anything. You still have no real idea about what is going on through this book, but where confusion sat most of the time in past books, now instead becomes an air of mystery to a certain degree.

Since I have given nothing out about what actually happens in this book, I suggest you rush out and read it right away. Aside from the plot there is so much more to love about this book, and so many new things that after you reset what you know about these books you will find them a rather intriguing change. A refreshing change is what I think we’ll call this, but I look forward to getting back into the writing and point of view I know and love. What this book does well is give a great insight into how reading is actually done, and received, which changes how you read yourself. Don’t resist it, just accept it and enter this world blissfully; and by the time you finish you will feel as suspicious and guilty for getting sleepy when reading a book as I do now.

First Among Sequels (#5) by Jasper Fforde

Published: 26 June 2008
Goodreads badgePublisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Pages: 395
Format: Book
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Literary Detective Thursday next is officially off the case.. Once a key figure in the BookWorld police force, she is concentrating on her duties as a wife and mother. or so her husband thinks…

Unofficially, Thursday is working as hard as ever = and in this world of dangerously short attention spans, there’s no rest for the literate.

Can Thursday stop Pride and prejudice being turned into a vote-em-off reality book? Who killed Sherlock Holmes? And will Thursday get her teenage son out of bed in time for him to save the world?

A sad day is approaching readers, there are only seven Thursday Next books currently; and we are up to five. But until then, we shan’t let this worry us as we will eagerly enjoy the immense anticipation until beloved Jasper gives us more from his grand knowledge brain in Dark Matter. I will also restrain myself from reviewing his other series for awhile, we may have over-Jaspered ourselves and I feel too much more excitement may cause injury.

There is so much more in this novel than I was expecting, it is overwhelming in the most amazing way. If Jasper does not get a knighthood or something for this series I am going to complain to somebody. As I said this is the fifth book in the Thursday Next series, and after the excitement of discovering this alternate world, exploring books in the literal sense, meeting literary characters, solving duel world issues and saving it from destruction, we see Thursday Next: the mother and carpet laying woman extraordinaire!

I was thrown initially because this story is set in 2002, long after the 1980’s adventures of the previous books. It takes a little getting used to as you adjust to this family scenario instead of the action packed and business side of the previous ones. That is not to say there is no business and action, certainly, but this time we get the added bonus of the family involved as well. Dear little Friday who we saw being adorable and swinging joyfully from curtain rods in Something Rotten is now 16 and being a teenager. It is rather nice seeing Thursday interact with her family in a semi normal fashion; as much normality that can be expected from this surreal world at least.

Having read the previous books I was initially waiting for a moment where I was told it was a dream or an alternate alternate reality, just because it seemed so different from the others yet somehow very much the same. And I suppose when you jump fifteen years or so things tend to have sorted themselves out in the missing years. This feeling did not last as you easily get involved and carried along by this new and equally detailed story, resulting in of course, you spending a lot of your time trying to remember and keep up with who is where and what is going on. The intrigue and suspense pick up their pace very quickly and when the drama begins you are suddenly flung into six different situations at once, the same wonderful sensation that previous books has offered.

We do get multiple updates on what has been happening in these missing years, and any detail that is introduced that seems confusing does get explained further on. What Jasper does well is bring the narrative detail and information into the conversations between characters. Dialogue in the kitchen can manage to explain away bald dodos and missing relatives, and it can give you insights in characters easier than standard descriptive sentences. This saves from having to read the blocks of text where readers are given the run down on everything or everyone. Jasper still has moments of information but they are woven extremely well into the writing style Thursday’s narrative voice has, especially when it comes to recapping not just new information.

A reoccurring issue I have found is that I read one of Mr Fforde’s books, which means I am reading about other books, which means I want to read these books, and then have to go and read them as well. Barely 60 pages in and he has me desperately wanting to read Pinocchio. I can’t be expected to control my reading habits when he makes all these books sound so alluring; and the fact that his books are so addictive means I have no time to read two alongside one another. And if Fforde’s books weren’t wonderful enough, he casually throws in a reference to Doctor Who. I can only adore you so much at a time Mr Fforde! And for the Whovians of the world, since this is set in 2002 it refers to the classic Who which made me all warm and fuzzy on the inside

As in previous books there are a range of brilliant literary characters that appear in this book: new and returning figures both friend, foe and in between. It has even more illegal cheese, Sir Leicester breathlessly ejaculating and the peach mystery has finally been answered. What else does one want in a novel? Amongst all this organised chaos and complexities, Fforde manages to offer some beautiful and true insights and observations about reading, not reading, reality television and the modern world. It suits the 2002 setting perfectly and certainly is something that is relevant today.

I am refusing to reveal anything else, despite my temptations, because anything I say will ruin something and I wouldn’t do it to you. This is a book that is so superb that you have got to read and find these surprises on your own. You will hate me if I ruin even the smallest thing for you. If you have not read any in this series you must read through the others as fast as your little eyes can take you. You should not read these out of order but you must read them, you won’t regret it.

Something Rotten (#4) by Jasper Fforde

Published: 11 Apr 2005
Goodreads badgePublisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Pages: 393
Format: Book
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Literary detective Thursday next is on a mission – and it’s not just a mission to save the planet. if only it were that simple.

Unemployed following an international cheese-smuggling scandal, our favourite cultural crime-fighter is face with a world of problems: Hamlet’s not attending his conflict resolution classes, President George Formby is facing a coup led by dastardly Yorrick Kaine and, what’s more, the evil Goliath Corporation are refusing to un-eradicate Thursday’s husband, Landen.

Will she ever see Landen again? Is shopping the new religion? Can Thursday prevent Armageddon? And who will babysit her son while she does it?

Sometimes a small part of me hates Jasper Fforde for his brilliant imagination and attention to detail and sheer genius stories that I am overcome with jealousy. But the other 99% of the time I adore him. His character depth and histories and minute details that don’t always have a purpose but somehow make sense and make everything more believable are why I am addicted to these books. I mean who wouldn’t believe Mrs Tiggy Winkle was in your house, seems perfectly logical when Jasper explains it. Of course a gorilla can wear heels and babysit a toddler that only speaks Lorem Ipsum when Jasper explains it.

Something Rotten is just as wonderful as the previous books, and best of all they reference one another and if you hadn’t read them (why haven’t you? What is more important?), but if you haven’t, there are enough quick summaries and references that are silkily woven into the story so it doesn’t stand out as a major recap that stops the flow. It is just simply another humorous, insane and incredible Thursday Next book. I mean where else does Shakespeare, genetic cloning, inappropriate prophets and Chuck Norris get mentioned in one place, answer me that. And if you thought Hamlet wasn’t like Lethal Weapon and Mad Max then you were wrong.

With the previous book offering no real resolution I entered book number four already knowing what was going on, as much as you can anyway. And to some degree I was right. We meet up with Thursday who is still living within the Book World as the Jurisfiction Bellman, and with her child she manages to police the Book World, all the while trying to solve the issues she left behind in the real world.

I have to say this was definitely a high favourite of the series. It wasn’t just the narrative and the revelations and the questions, but there were so many lovable characters and surreal but very realistic moments as well. A lot of answers are given in this book, and a few new questions, I say a few, a lot more questions are asked. Somehow Jasper manages to make things more exciting, more complex, and add more pure and simple genius into every new book. By the end of this series I am not going to be able to control myself if things keep going at this rate. A lot of the previous book flows on into this one as we see more of the Book World life, however Thursday is beginning to tire of it but leaving the literary world does not guarantee the literature is going to leave her.

Many familiar faces return plus a range of new ones. I must say Emperor Zhark and Granny are my strong favourites, but you really can’t choose. The works of Shakespeare cause chaos as per usual, there are just never pleasing some princes; and shopping is fast becoming the new religion. There is professional croquet,  outbreaks of slapstick, minotaurs, cheese and Danish controversy, and the mysterious ovinator to delight the senses and enthrall the mind. I can go on but I won’t.

Somehow, and despite having more books in the series, Jasper has answered all the questions of the previous books. The genius plot of the previous book continues with the aftermath, but in doing so makes the narrative oh so much better. We are kept on the edge of our seats and we are set a flutter in our beds, and if we were to read this in public there would be audible gasps and exclamations as we turn each page. For all the work Jasper has put into this series so far, this is the book that ties it together. And in tying everything together he gives us the greatest ending anyone could possibly imagine. I know I say a lot of things in this book are amazing but this was so spectacular I had to go over it a few times to make sure.

I don’t want you to think anything of this though, Jasper can summerise the past four books all he likes, but he also adds in a whole new set of events and chaos. This is why these books work. Somehow in this organised chaos, that is really not as confusing as it sounds it just makes reviewing rather messy, there are strings that pull you along with Thursday and we get the sense of her urgency, her fear, her confusion and her own chaos. Alan is there in all his adorableness, there’s the ever mocked Daphne Farquitt, Old English, and a whole history of literary characters that are so much stranger than their words give them credit for. If you haven’t started this series yet I can do nothing else for you but hope that you can live with the intense curiosity of never really knowing what it is I am truly going on about.

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