Welcome to Paper & Pixels, a place for Rinn and Claire to fangirl, flail and just generally share our love for all things geeky. We both started out as book bloggers on separate blogs, but decided that we wanted to branch out a little more, so have teamed up for this new adventure!
This was previously posted on my book blog, Rinn Reads.
When I was ten years old, I picked up this huge fantasy book that I’d never read before. I was (and still am… obviously) an avid devourer of fantasy fiction, and here was one I hadn’t yet read! It was written by the same author who wrote The Hobbit – I’d read that a few years before and loved it. I’d also heard there was a film version of it coming out next year, and it’s always more fun to read the book first. That book was J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and it changed my life.
It wasn’t long before I’d finished all three books, and I was obsessed. It didn’t really help that the films were coming out soon, which meant there was merchandise EVERYWHERE. I bought countless movie guides, guides to Tolkien, books about Tolkien himself, art books, the video games, posters, trading cards, figures… I even had one of those huge cardboard promotional cutouts. Seriously. My local video shop sold off cutouts and posters so I ended up coming home with a Two Towersone, which took up the majority of my tiny bedroom at the time. Totally worth it. I did tons of fanart (a lot of which I still have), I learnt to write ‘like a hobbit’, I tried (and failed) to learn Sindarin, I ran several different Lord of the Rings websites and fanlistings. I didn’t hide my love for it either, everyone at school knew my obsession. Sometimes I felt that it alienated me from others and that they looked down on me for being so passionate, but eh.
It’s difficult to give a toss about how people perceive you for liking something, when that something is so important to you. Reading, particularly the fantasy genre, has always been a HUGE part of my life. From a young age I was encouraged to read: to my parents, by myself, before bed, whenever I could. The Lord of the Ringsonly made me delve deeper into the fantasy genre, and I have so much to thank it for.
I know it doesn’t appeal to everyone. Tolkien’s language is old-fashioned, but that’s what I LOVE about it. I love the archaic words, the feeling that somehow this could have been our past in an alternate universe, the hobbits and their country bumpkin lifestyle – it sounds pretty idyllic. It’s a tale with unlikely heroes: within the Fellowship we’ve got an heir to the throne of Gondor, the Gondorian Steward’s son, an Elven prince, an Istari (or wizard), a Dwarven warrior (who is of the royal line, however distant) – and four hobbits. Two of which prove to be the strongest of them all, and we can’t forget what Merry and Pippin went through either.
Tolkien turned the traditional ‘epic quest’ tale on its head when he made his bumbling country folk – who’d normally rather spend the day fishing or farming, followed by an evening with a mug of ale – the true heroes. Despite the fact that Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mount Doom will most likely kill them and their chances of ever seeing the Shire again are slim, they carry on. That very thought of their beautiful home pushes them through. The message is clear: it’s not who you are that matters, it’s what you do. You don’t need to be the long lost heir to the throne, a rich prince or a grizzled warrior to have an impact. It’s essentially, when stripped to the bare bones, a story of good overcoming evil and how even the littlest person can change the future. To me, it also speaks of overcoming prejudices: it’s well known that elves and dwarves do not get along. But Legolas and Gimli end up forging a strong friendship, although they were distrusting of each other at first. There’s so much more within the books than a tale of nine people going on a long and arduous journey.
But you know what impresses me even more than the positive message Tolkien sends out through The Lord of the Rings? His sheer and utter dedication to thoroughly creating the world of Middle-earth. He invented entire languages, and not just the words and sentences he used in the books, but an entire new vocabulary and syntax. A whole history of Middle-earth was written, cultures and peoples that the reader barely catches a glimpse or even mention of were created. Inspired by myths and legends of other cultures, Tolkien sculpted this beautiful world that feels so real to me. I’m pretty heartbroken that I can’t just move to Middle-earth, to be honest.
To round it all up, The Lord of the Rings is a series that breaks my heart – in the very best way – yet simultaneously every time I read the books I feel like I’m at home. There just isn’t another like it.
Today I’m writing about 4 books that I’m quite excited to get my hands on in 2018. Some of these are more urgent than others, but either way – I think 2018 will be a good year for publishing!
1. Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor #2)
I’ve not written a review of it yet because I want to do it justice (I’m planning a reread of it this year and I have the audiobook to get through as well), but this has to be the book I’m most looking forward to reading in 2018. I loved the world that Lawrence made for this series and I have an (a?) hypothesis or two as to how the Book of the Ancestor world was made and formed. Either way, I’m desperate to return to Nona Grey and see how she’s fared, as well as my beloved Sister Kettle and Sister Apple!
2. Nevernight 3
I’ve loved this series so far and between Red Sister by Lawrence and Nevernight by Kristoff, they’ve made me into a hooked grimdark fan. I love the world that Kristoff has made and I think I’m into that whole “person goes to school thing and shenanigans ensue”. I guess it’s no coincidence that some of my top reads of 2017 involved assassin-boarding-schools. Maybe Harry Potter started off a trend for me… either way, I’m addicted! I’m eager to see how Kristoff will conclude this series and where he takes our girl, Mia Corvere.
3. The Hyena & the Hawk (Echoes of the Fall #3)
I have mixed feelings about this series. I thoroughly enjoyed the first, The Tiger and the Wolf but the second (The Bear and the Serpent) left me feeling a bit wanting. I just wanted Tchaikovsky to get to the point of who the bad-guys were and stop dithering about. That being said, despite my frustrations, I full intend to read the final edition in this series so I can finally see who the bad-guys are and why they’re coming.
4. Songwoman (Skin #2)
I read the first in this duology in 2016 so I was surprised to find out that a second was to be released in 2018. I did enjoy the first in the book because I think Tampke did celtic-meets-magic well despite some seriously odd sex scenes. I will admit that Ailia does feel a tad Mary Sue but I am intrigued to see how the world continues and what Ailia does now, now that she has… well, power.
That’s all folks! Are there any books (fantasy or non-fantasy) that you’re excited to get your hands on this year?
Today I realised it has now been 10 years since my life changed quite drastically.
Between the ages of 16-18, I suffered from pretty bad depression. This started when I was in sixth form. From the very first day, the friends that I’d had from the age of 11 (and some even earlier) began to ignore me. To this day, I still have no idea what the reason for it was. All I know is that I’d never felt so lonely, and a downward spiral began.
But that’s not where I want this post to go.
Today I realised it has now been 10 years since I worked my way through depression, and came out of it a better person.
Because of my depression, I became addicted to a video game. Every day after school I escaped into the world of MMORPGs. But this is where I met some awesome people, many of whom I am still friends with. They kept me going when I hit rock bottom, and if I’m honest, they probably kept me from doing anything stupid. I even frequently stream with one of them on Twitch (shoutout to Shiz!)
Because of my depression, I didn’t get into my first choice university. Instead, I ended up at my second choice – and there I met two of my best friends, and found my true love (archaeology, of course). And if I hadn’t gone to university in Reading, I probably never would have known about Leiden – the two universities had a lot of connections. And my year studying at Leiden? Best year of my life so far.
Because of my depression, I have experienced some really low periods over the past ten years outside of the first two, and even saw a counsellor for a year. But I feel that this has made me a more empathetic and understanding person. I cannot recommend counselling enough. It was truly one of the things that helped me move on, after the depression came back two years after I thought it had gone.
Because of my depression, there were times where I cut myself off from the world. But now when I do something that I never would have thought myself capable of at 17 (not only gone to university, but gone to university in another country; partied in Amsterdam until 9.30 the next morning), I feel so happy that I now have the courage to do these things.
So to sum it all up, a message to my 17-year-old self: it will get better. Things will change, and before you know it you’ll be out of there. But most importantly: in ten years time, you know you wouldn’t change any of those experiences for the world. Who knows where you’d be without them, after all?
(Also without that depression you wouldn’t have found Parks & Recreation, and then what would life be?)
On my previous blog, I always used to share my New Year’s Resolutions, and I thought I’d continue over here! I never really like to set super strict goals, but rather things I’d like to take into consideration over the next year. Here’s what I’d like to do in 2018:
Take better care of myself. Physically, emotionally, mentally – I’d like to consider a little more about what I’m putting in my body and how I treat it. I’m generally quite good when it comes to meals, but stop snacking so much (or at least snack more on fruit).
And talking of food… experiment more with cooking. I’ve had my own place since March now, and one thing I always said I’d look forward to about having my own flat was having free range of the kitchen. Whilst I’ve tried some new dishes this year, I haven’t tried to make as much new stuff from scratch as I’d like.
Read at least 52 books this year. This is a really low goal for me – since I started blogging five years ago, I’ve consistently read at least 100 books every year, and the total has increased each year. By the very end of 2017 I’d read 151 books, which is a record for me. However, I like to aim to read at least one a week, and set no more – to avoid any unnecessary stress (I get very competitive when it comes to setting goals so need to go low…)
Keep up both the blog and my Twitch channel, but don’t let them take over my life. For a while, my book blog was all that I’d think about. I think I spent more time writing posts, thinking about writing posts and checking out new releases online than I actually did reading. I felt pressured to post a certain amount of times a week, get a certain number of comments on each post for it to be a ‘success’, constantly network on Twitter etc and comment on other blogs. It was not healthy and I eventually burned out, and began to almost resent book blogging. Hence this blog, which is much more casual and also covers a wider range of topics – so if I feel like ignoring books for a bit and posting about something else, I can. Similarly, before I reached Twitch Affiliate I got a bit obsessive about streaming and pretty much spent all my evenings playing games until midnight. Now I’m an Affiliate, I feel more relaxed and have instead set up a schedule, which I won’t neccessarily stick to if I just don’t feel like it.
Make something out of my job. I’m a bit fed up with just having a job. I want a career, and I want 2018 to finally be the year something happens. Whether this means I move on up where I am now, or I try and get back into the museum sector, I don’t know – but I want to feel like I’ve made progress career-wise by the end of 2018.
What are your resolutions for 2018? Do you set strict goals for yourself, or just have an idea of what you’d like to achieve? Filed under: Life, Rinn
I’ll admit this this book was a slow start for me in the beginning. I wasn’t completely sold on the concept or the book when I bought it (it was on sale for 2 pounds so I really couldn’t say “no”) and I let it gather dust in my room for a good 2 months before I decided to start it. And when I did, I barely made it 30 pages in before I left it again for another month!
But I’m glad that I pushed through because I became very invested in the characters and the world within a few pages. I loved Jemisin’s world building here – she created a ruptured earth full of terrifying seasons and weather, and she did it so well that you felt the terror of the people.
Within this earth there is a fifth season that creates cataclysmic weather that basically destroys all life as you know it. This means that people on this world are terrified of shakes, quakes and unusual weather. Within this world, there are also individuals that are called orogenes that can harness earth’s power (and like all power, for good and evil reasons). I won’t say more because of spoilers but think X-Men on a ruptured earth. Oh, and everyone in this world is hella diverse!
Another aspect that I greatly enjoyed was the cultural and societal comm system she created. Here communities are the lifeblood of survival and each community has a stratified culture with each person belonging to a group, and each group playing a role in the survival of many. OK, so this is the anthropologist in me freaking out and many won’t give a crap about this part of the book but it is definitely a plus! This cultural and societal reaction is significant however to the survival of some of the main characters.
I could go on and on about other aspects of the book I like (think Stone People) but I’ll say something that irked me: This book is multi-perspective which isn’t exactly my cup of tea and took me a while to get used to. Jemisin does it well, and I get why she chose to use this narrative style, but eh, it was odd at first.
I’m jumping on the bandwagon and also sharing my year in books! I love it when Goodreads does this feature every year, because I always find reading statistics to be really interesting, whether they’re my own or someone else’s.
I read 59,696 pages across 147 books. I kept my Goodreads goal at 52, so one a week, even though I knew I’d beat it. One a week is a comfortable amount and gives me some wiggle room, in case I go off and do nothing but play video games for a week *cough*very possible*cough*
The longest book I read was A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander #6) by Diana Gabaldon, at 1,439 pages. Somehow even though this was longer than the previous book in the series, I read it MUCH more quickly.
The shortest book I read was 154 pages – Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, which I decided to finally read after playing the game 80 Days on Steam (highly recommended!)
My rating breakdown looks like this, with an average rating of 3.9:
5 stars: 47
4 stars: 47
3 stars: 41
2 stars: 9
1 star: 3
Did not finish: 3 (not counted in my final total)
I read within the following genres: Fantasy (43), Science Fiction (38), Non-Fiction (27), Contemporary (13), Graphic Novel (7), Historical Fiction (4), Crime/Thriller (4), Paranormal (7), Classic (4).
This split is quite surprising – fantasy and science fiction are no surprise, but I didn’t realise I read so much non-fiction this year. This mostly comprises of historical non-fiction, biographies and travel books.
The highest rated book on Goodreads that I read in 2017 was the excellent The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The lowest was Swords and Scoundrels (Duelists Trilogy #1) by Julia Knight, which I personally quite enjoyed!
I re-read quite a few books, including all but one of the Harry Potter series, and finally started my re-read of A Song of Ice and Fire, which will continue into 2018.
How was your year in reading? Did you achieve your goals? Filed under: Books, Rinn
I read 17,892 pages across 52 books (this feels so impressive!) with an average book length of 344 pages which feels sizable to me.
I prefer to read books that are minimum 300 pages and to be frank, the fatter the book the better. In my head, I equate a longer book to something that has denser world building but it isn’t always the case, plus I see longer books as good value for money… am I weird for this? Does anyone else have a minimum page requirement?
The longest book I read was Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey and it was over 1,000 pages (Fun fact: It took me the entire year to read this book! I read it in two 500 page chunks)
I gave 34 books 4 or 5 stars, which is high compared to the 8 books that I gave 1 or 2 stars. I’d assume then that I enjoyed more books this year than not!
My 2017 year in reading was dominated by fantasy with the genre taking 23 out of the 34 top books that I rated! No other genre came close: Sci-fi only had 1 book in the 4 – 5 star range, horror had 3, non-fiction had 4 and YA took 3.
I guess I really like fantasy? This is an interesting change because 2012 to 2014 was spent being obsessed with Historical Fiction and I haven’t read a single HF this year so far…and that’s not likely to change! Most of the books I plan to read next year are focused on non fiction and more fantasy.
And I didn’t read as diversely as I should have so 2018 will have a few soft goals
This year I read more books by female authors at 18, with male authors coming in close at 13. I don’t think I read as diversely as I could though and I want to see myself make a greater effort to read books by female authors.
I don’t have stats about POC authors but I can say this: I didn’t do well in that. To be honest, I’m looking at the stats quite generally and I think 3 to 5 authors might be POC? This doesn’t make me happy – I’m going to have to try harder to read more diversely author-wise in 2018.
Another goal I have next year is to look for different perspectives, cultures and histories in fantasy. I’ve noticed that a lot of fantasy seems to feel medieval-esque, and… very white so I’d love to read more fantasy based on different cultures, backgrounds and with characters from many lands.
How was your year in reading? Do you have any recommendations for me for 2018? Filed under: Books, Claire
There’s no doubt about it – I’ll always pick up a book about video games. I love this merging of my two top hobbies, and sometimes it works out in my favour, for example Ready Player One or the .//hack manga series.
Warcross looked very promising. The story of a young hacker struggling with debt and facing life on the streets, who accidentally manages to glitch herself into a major competition of ‘Warcross’, the world’s favourite e-sport, when testing a new hack. Emika is instantly caught up in the world of competitive Warcross, where opposing teams have to capture each other’s ‘Artifacts’ to win, and her life is transformed. However, as often goes with rags to riches type stories, not everything is quite as it seems.
I felt like Warcross as a game was well set up, and easy to visualise for the reader. Online games such as MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas) are really big at the moment, so it was also very relevant. And like Ready Player One, the use of Virtual Reality meant that Marie Lu could write Emika as if she was doing all the actions herself, rather than just controlling a character.
This was an enjoyable novel, but as soon as there was a whiff of romance I began to lose interest in the book. The romance was too convenient and quick, and the ultimate plot twist at the end was incredibly predictable as a result. Apparently it is a series, but could probably have worked as a standalone novel too.
In a sentence: a fun idea for a novel involving a video game I would definitely play, but ultimately let down by the romance and predictable ending.
Like Rinn’s said in her post, it’s that time of year where we sit and reminisce about the great books we read over the past year!
Red Sister by Mark Lawrenceis one of my top 3 books of the year. I didn’t expect to like it when my housemate gave me a copy, but I loved every moment of it. I read it very slowly on purpose, I wanted to soak up every aspect of the world!Nevernight by Jay Kristoff is another treat that helped cement my love of the grimdark genre: It’s an amazingly well written, engaging novel that had me reading late into the night (and annoyed my girlfriend because I refused to stop reading well past 3AM). The last book here isKushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Careythat I picked up as part of the Tor Books book club. It’s over 700 pages and took me the entire year to read but it’s worth it. It’s a great world that has beauty, intrigue and magic in it.
The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisinhas been in the news for the past few years, racking up quite a few awards, but I only just got my hands on it this year. It took some time to get into but Jemisin has made such a truly engrossing fantasy world that I can truly understand why the books are at the “top” of many fantasy lists. Alice by Christina Henry was another surprise read that I enjoyed massively because of its dark, gritty and terrifying take on a beloved classic. The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson – I don’t even know how I got this book, but it’s a wonderful fantasy tale based on traditional Chinese myths and religions – this is important to me because fantasy can seem very western/white.