April wrap-up – What I Read

Apr 20 Wrap-upIn which the answer is… not a lot

Reading slumps are the actual worst, am I right?

I mean, given all *gestures wildly at the mess of the outside world* I think I can be forgiven, but I still hate it. Especially this specifically dreadful form of reading slump where I actually want to read SO MANY BOOKS but just can’t focus or motivate myself to do so.

Dammit, world. Pull yourself together.

IMAG39842The highlights

On Wilder Seas was an eARC I requested on a whim from NetGalley and ended up being my favourite read of the month. From the scant facts about the existence of a woman named Maria who travelled on the Golden Hind for part of its voyage around the world, Nikki Marmery weaves an engrossing and evocative tale of hardship, courage and resilience, and a protagonist – a black woman fleeing slavery despite the very real danger she knows awaits – who shines from the page.

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State of Grace is an #ownvoices book for autistic rep, something I try to seek out as it’s still fairly rare in mainstream publishing. This is a quiet YA book, dealing with the trials and troubles of teenage life, friendships and families, rather than any huge drama or danger, and it’s one of the best on-page renditions of autism I’ve come across. It pervades the whole of Grace’s life, but it isn’t her focus or her only characteristic; she’s not a stereotype but a real teenager with autism as an added complication to a life that’s full of plenty of other challenges.

The rest

A Long Petal of the Sea was so lauded, and from an author with such a good reputation – I really wanted to like it. And in sections, I did. It was very powerful where it dealt with the personal impact of war and becoming a refugee. But it’s the second Isabel Allende book I’ve had the same problem with – too bogged down by detailed recitations of the history to be a gripping story – so I have to conclude this is her particular writing style not gelling with me.

In a completely transparent effort to improve my numbers for the month, I ploughed through a few short stories I’ve been meaning to get to. Dolor’s Legs was creepy and definitely whet my appetite for Deeplight (it’s a piece of background lore from that world). Mothmen was erotic romance – or maybe just erotica – with polyam and kink rep and shapeshifters, too short for my liking even if it hadn’t confirmed that this just isn’t my thing. The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky was short and sweet and had Monty and Percy in it; what more do you need to know?

Oh, and I also read a book of children’s poetry. Homeschooling in the time of COVID, folks.

How was your reading month?

Is the lockdown giving you more time to read or too much stress to manage it? What was the last book you picked up on a whim and ended up loving? Tell me all!

September wrap-up: What I read

Sept 19 Wrap-upIn which I hit a mini reading slump

I’ve had a few good reading months, managing 15 or more books a month, and mostly enjoying them. August was positively outstanding, if I say so myself, with 24 (!!) books read and some of them getting the full 5-star rating. Sadly, September didn’t continue the trend.

I got bogged down by a few books that took me a long time to finish, and by the time I finally got through them, there wasn’t much of the month left – though I did make the most of it.

I ended up on 14 books, which to be fair is still a pretty good month, although there were a lot more disappointments than I’ve had recently too. It’s just a shame my momentum took a nosedive – I was enjoying it while it lasted!

The Highlights

IMG_20190912_204632_077The Binding surprised me. Really surprised me. I went in without a lot of expectations, it was confusing at the beginning, but by the time things started to slot together and make sense, it had turned into one of those slow-burn, understated romances I would absolutely die for. A plot that’s not about saving the world, but about saving the two people at the heart of the story, and with twists and turns I couldn’t see coming. Historical plus a hint of magic is obviously my jam; it reminded me in a lot of ways of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, which crept up on me this way last year. The Binding was maybe a bit grittier; serious issues of misogyny, classism and homophobia simmering beneath the surface – not ignored by the narration but somehow not quite dealt with in a comfortable way.

The Winner’s Kiss was the conclusion to the trilogy I’ve been slowly making my way through on audiobook, and easily the best of the three. And I’m saying that having really enjoyed both the others! It had the mind games and plotting of the first two, but the pacing and action were much more intense. And if you were in it for the romance, wow does this conclusion deliver!

DSC_0417~2Rose Under Fire was one of those books that is brilliant and emotional, but it’s hard to say you actually enjoyed, because the subject matter is so very brutal. In this case, life inside a WWII concentration camp. Although a fictional story, it is based on real-life accounts of the many atrocities that actually took place in the real Ravensbrück. It didn’t pull any punches, especially seeing it so close and personal through the eyes of the protagonist, Rose. I actually found the first book of the series, Code Name Verity, more gripping but this was still a five-star read.

IMAG3992-2Goodreads describes Sofia Khan is Not Obliged as the Muslim Bridget Jones, and it certainly lived up to that for the first quarter or so, and I wasn’t sure I was going to be too impressed. Then, somehow, I found myself seriously attached to Sofia. I loved her messy, chaotic, vibrant relationships with her family and friends; felt every one of the bumps in her romantic endeavours; wanted to cheer for her as she worked out who she was and how to be true to herself without ever sacrificing her religion or her love for her family. A wonderful read!

The rest

Ghosts of the Shadow Market, like all the Shadowhunter short story collections, was a bit hit and miss for me. Some of the stories – anything with Malec, of course, but also the little glimpse we got of Kit and Ty and Livvy, and Anna Lightwood was a revelation – were fantastic. Others, less so. And as much as I liked the Tessa/Jem romance in The Infernal Devices, I found their continuous angst in these short stories became a bit much.

I often gravitate towards queer romance ebooks when I’m in a slump. They’re quick reads, they put me in a good mood, and I can always buy a few more without breaking the bank if nothing I already have on my shelves, Kindle or library card is hitting the right notes. I went back to an old fave, Jay Northcote, for September, and while I enjoyed both books (Better Place, and Mud and Lace, books 3 and 4 in the inter-linked series of Rainbow Place romances) I think my tastes have moved on slightly since the last time I binged this particular author.

The Burning was another powerful but not necessarily enjoyable read; on reflection it felt like the characterisation and to some extent the sense of the plot were sacrificed for the sake of the message. It read well enough, and if you’ve ever doubted the pressure and judgement teen girls are under for how they look and behave, and how insidious and despicable slut-shaming really is, this really hammers it home.

Tellus cover revealTellus I read as an eARC, having read the first book in the trilogy, Imber, in August, which means for once I haven’t forgotten everything that happened before I get to the sequel. There were plenty of good points – the action scenes were dramatic and pacey; the politics, both mortal and supernatural, were intriguing; the characters were engaging and likeable, and very fond of banter and muffins, which is always going to improve matters. Tellus got on with the action rather quicker than Imber, but then dragged a little in the middle. Although it promptly made up for it with a nail-biting sucker punch of a finale and cliffhanger ending. It wasn’t outstanding, but it was a fun read even if the dialogue and romance were a little on the nose at times and supporting characters a little too inclined to be helpful.

The Wolves In The Walls was short, fun, creepy and generally what I’d expect from a Neil Gaiman graphic novel, though it was a lot younger than I was expecting, far more MG than YA.

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating was kind of meh. Funny, quick and cute, but there’s not much more to say about it. As much as I loved Autoboyography, these authors aren’t enough for me to overcome my disconnect with this kind of straightforward adult romance, rom-com, however you want to classify it.

IMG_20181212_183034_783To Kill A Kingdom was maybe the worst disappointment. Not to say it was a bad book, I did enjoy it, and there’s a lot to be said for a fantasy standalone I can read in the space of single evening. But it had been majorly hyped, and so I felt let down when it turned out to be an average YA fantasy. It had good points (Lira’s unapologetic badass-ness and brilliant character growth, the found-family of Elian’s crew, the banter throughout the slow-burn romance) but others were decidedly lacking (Elian’s personality, or lack of one, the very confused world-building, the Basic Fantasy Quest™ half of the plot).

Again with the very mixed short story anthologies. I bought Because You Love To Hate Me for the VE Schwab story, and it was certainly one of the highlights, but my favourite was the feminist and decidedly unsettling Marigold by Samantha Shannon – the more I read by her, the more I rate her as a writer. Overall, the latter stories were stronger and made up for a pretty disappointing first half.

Finally, Madame Bovary. I had a goal to read at least one classic a month for the whole of 2019, so I picked this up knowing very little about it, and certainly not anticipating that it would make me the angriest a book has made me for a very long time. I won’t go into it here, but while I can usually overlook the mores of the time a classic was written in, this one hit several of my triggers. Let’s all judge the depressed woman instead of helping her, and don’t forget the fitting punishment for her lax morals. I have a rant review over on Goodreads, if you want to know more.

How was September for you?

A good reading month? Any stand-outs or anything too terrible to mention? And if you’ve read any of my monthly reads, what did you think of them?

February wrap-up: What I Read

Feb 18 Wrap-upIn which I love contemporaries again, what even is this?

A short month, but not a bad reading month. I’m still struggling to meet all the goals I set myself – the series a month is the one that’s falling by the wayside; I have so many books to read that committing to read three or more in a row just seems like too much a lot of time. I have at least started my first new series now, with the first book of the Half Bad trilogy, but I’ve got some catching up to do.

On the plus side, my writing is finally, slowly and painfully getting back into its swing. Partly thanks to the help of a brand new story idea, but I’ll be posting a separate writing wrap up for the first time since November – and that was only because it was NaNoWriMo month.

What I read

Goal progress February

The highlights

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Autoboyograpy was the most adorable, soul-destroying delight of a book. I was so invested in the main relationship that I was heartbroken when they hit problems. The full cast was well developed and nuanced, and I love it when contemporary romance-focused books don’t simply skim over the existence of other people in the MC’s life but really flesh out their relationships with friends and family. The conflict between the characters’ sexuality and the Mormon religion that dominates their Utah town was very well played out, with no easy resolutions, and I felt it was handled very fairly and respectfully, adding a lot of depth to the story. There was an awkward shift between first and third person towards the end of the book, which threw me out of the story a little, so I docked half a star and went with 4.5, but I still think this is going to be one of my favourite contemporaries of the year. I also recommend the audiobook!

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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is an MG book which I may or may not have borrowed from my daughter. It’s magical and fantastical and surprisingly gruesome in places, with a whimsical writing style that you’re either going to love or hate – luckily I loved it, or at least I thought it suited this particular story down to the ground. The characters were beautifully developed, even the antagonist, who I actually ended up feeling quite sorry for. I rated it 4 stars, and my daughter loved it too. I also read the prequel short story, The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – For a Little While which if anything was creepier than the main book!

Reading Dracula was a bit of a strange experience. It’s a story I (and probably everyone!) know so well, though I’ve never read the original before. But in this case, knowing what was going to happen didn’t lessen the tension or the creepiness. If anything, it added to it – watching all the little hints come together and wondering when the characters were going to figure out what they were dealing with. It’s an epistolary novel, mainly through diaries, but that didn’t undermine the tension or even the action scenes as I was worried it might. There were times when the pacing was off, and Van Helsing’s character was a little irritating, but overall, I really enjoyed reading this horror staple, and while rating seems a bit redundant for a classic like this, I’d give it 4 stars.

Saga Vol. 4 was the best volume of this graphic novel series so far. We’ve got the usual beautiful art and vivid characters, together with, oh, just a few of my favourite tropes. Dubious morals all over the place, characters switching sides, enemies joining forces, storylines meeting and tangling. The conflict between characters got a lot more personal and entrenched, there were quite a few shocking twists in a relatively short space. Just wow – 5 stars.

imag2458~21622370729..jpgLove, Hate & Other Filters was a quick, easy read with a vividly realistic MC. It takes an unflinching look at the impact of Islamophobia and the conflict of cultures for the teenage daughter of immigrant parents growing up in the US, but it never gets preachy; everything flows as part of the story. The MC’s relationships with friends and family were complex and engaging, although I could wish the romantic conflicts hadn’t fallen back so much on lack of communication at times. I really appreciated the author’s honesty in showing how there’s often no easy solution, no way for people to get what they want without compromise and consequence – some of which were surprisingly heartbreaking. 4 stars.

The rest

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I can never honestly say Cassandra Clare books are my favourites, but I devour them anyway, and Lord of Shadows is one of the best. It chops and changes between viewpoints so you never have a chance to feel settled, the storylines are more and more tangled, there aren’t any choices without serious consequences, and there are several characters I really don’t want to see hurt any more. It’s even pulled off the trick of having a protagonist I’m rooting for without being sure if I like him; Julian and his ruthlessness scare me a little. The romantic relationships are just as tangled; the Mark/Cristina/Kieran dynamic is getting messier and I’m not sure what to make of it. Ty and Kit, though, are a fantastic pairing, whether they turn romantic or not; Kit has to be one of the most rounded and nuanced of all the Shadowhunters characters. The hate and bigotry of the Cohort is disturbingly familiar from real-world events, and I genuinely fear for where this story is going to end. But I’m not invested in the ongoing Julian/Emma saga and the parabatai ‘curse’. 4 stars.

imag2270~2145735348..jpgWith so many books lingering on my TBR, perhaps a reread of the Captive Prince series wasn’t my cleverest decision. But with a buddy read going on Instagram and since I was missing this world, I gave in. The first book has me as conflicted as ever; on the reread I pick up lots of little hints pointing to later reveals. Things we now know Laurent’s motivations and personality with hindsight add a lot of depth to the story. And the characters are as compelling as ever, even more so with a series’ worth of affection behind them. But there’s still no denying Laurent’s (and others) unpleasant, seemingly unforgivable actions in this first book, some of them seriously problematic. Maybe it’s a little less uncomfortable now I’m able to view this as the first instalment of a larger story, but I’m still not able to rate it above 3 stars.

SAM_2456Half Bad had only been sitting unread my shelf for, oh, eighteen months or so. But then I guess that’s the point of challenges like Beat the Backlist, to finally knock some of those books off your TBR. I was unsure of how much I’d enjoy this, at the beginning – the writing style is very sparse, disjointed even. Parts of the book are in 2nd person, which is seriously hard to do well. But I was quickly pulled right into Nathan’s head. I don’t know if you’d exactly call him an unreliable narrator, but there’s a natural withholding of information until the point he needs to think about it which worked really well. The worldbuilding is decent, the sense of threat building up the whole time and Nathan is so determined and tries so hard to be good despite everything that it’s impossible not to be rooting for him. The hints of instalove let the book down, but overall, gritty and gripping and I need to know what happens next, so 3.5 stars.

imag2462~21833740267..jpgFebruary book haul

Well, that escalated quickly. I don’t even have an excuse. Well, a couple were pre-orders – Shadowsong, When the Moon Was Ours, and Of Fire and Stars – but most were complete impulse buys. I even impulse-bought a subscription box to get The Belles. Rainbow Book Box is pretty new, they focus on diverse titles and authors, and while I loved everything in the box, I’d have been a bit disappointed if it turned out I’d guessed the book wrong! I don’t have a great record for that; I had a FairyLoot subscription for most of last year and I got the book wrong several times. To the point where I had to go and impulse buy the book I thought I was getting, afterwards. Ooops.

Let’s chat!

There’s a comment button right below, whether you agree or disagree with my reviews. I’d love to know what you think. What’s your take on contemporaries that tackle bigger issues? What other graphic novels would you recommend after Saga?

January wrap-up: What I Read

Jan 18 Wrap-upIn which I finally post a monthly wrap-up on time

Welcome to 2018, book people! (And writer people, and anyone else who happens to be reading this – I love you anyway). If you saw my post about reading resolutions you’ll know I’ve been ever so slightly ambitious. Backlist titles, new series (including adult epic fantasy books I’ve been putting off for far too long), finishing off several half-read series and reading more classics, and books with non-western settings.

This month got off to a good start, partly because my writing is still on a go-slow as I recover from the slump and burnout of last November. I ended up with only 6 books read, but a couple of them were 600 page monsters & I’ve almost finished a 7th (so close I put it into my wrap-up photo in anticipation). Let’s hope I can keep it up over the next few months as I build back up to a decent drafting speed.

What I read

Goal progress January

The highlights

The Start of Me and You was a quick YA contemporary read. I can knock these out in a day to boost my reading figures if the month’s going a bit slowly. No, I have no shame. I’m not usually a fan of contemporaries in schools with such a focus on romance, but this was impossible not to like. I’m doing the book a disservice, because there’s actually a very well done storyline of the MC dealing with grief and possible PTSD, but still, it was a lot fluffier than my norm. I loved the nerdiness; Paige might not be the most attention-grabbing protagonist but she’s definitely relatable, and I loved the dynamics she had with her family, her friendship group and the love interest. The characters were so real and likeable they carried the story even when the plot wasn’t the most action-packed. 4 stars.

IMG_20180130_201944_202The Bedlam Stacks put Natasha Pulley firmly on my auto-buy list. I loved Merrick’s character from the outset, and the writing was amazing. The setting, the mystery around everything going on in Peru, character motivations and growth and reactions. Oh my word, just everything! It’s a slower build, but the characters are so compelling it didn’t bother me at all. Merrick, a disabled protagonist in a fantasy novel, isn’t the sort of MC you often come across, and as someone with mobility problems myself (also like Merrick, not ones I was born with but which happened suddenly and I had to adjust to) I would totally recommend this book for the disability rep. The injury doesn’t define him, and yet it’s an unavoidable part of his life, his every move. It’s a hard balance to write, and done wonderfully here. Just like Pulley’s first book, it surprised me with moments of heartbreak amidst the wonder. I loved this book, and it’s my first 5 star read of 2018.

kite runner

It took me 5 months to get through the audiobook of The Kite RunnerNot because it was a bad book, but it was long! Listening instead of reading did add to the experience; it was narrated by the author and there’s no way I would have got the proper Afghan pronunciations by reading. It’s a difficult book to review, because there’s so many unpleasant things happening, and the MC Amir is often so unlikable, that I can’t exactly say I enjoyed it, but I am definitely glad I read it. The sections in Afghanistan were very atmospheric, a vivid picture of life in Kabul. The part in America was dragged and felt mundane, though I couldn’t point to anything specific that felt irrelevant or unnecessary. I disliked the way Amir used his honesty about flaws and shortcomings as an excuse for bad (sometimes unforgivable) choices, and everything was so coloured through his viewpoint that other characters often felt one-dimensional. There was a fair amount of heavy-handed foreshadowing and, towards the end, coincidences stretched belief a little too far and weren’t actually needed to make the story work, in my view. But overall, it was powerful and moving and the lack of a clear happy ending felt real, a reflection of life’s struggle and unfairness that fit the tone of the book and Amir’s journey. 4 stars.

The rest

IMG_20180125_194307_941Milk and Honey is the first poetry book I’ve read since school. It’s also the first time I’ve read a whole collection of very modern, short, free-form poetry like this. I’m not sure it suits me, but there’s no denying the grace and power in the writing. My reactions, though, were a bit hit and miss. Some of the poems spoke to me strongly, others less so, but on such personal subjects that’s got to be as much down to the person reading and the stage of life I’m at as with the writing itself. It’s definitely worth reading. 3 stars.

IMAG1588~2The Plague of Doves is beautifully written, with strong, individual character voices and an atmospheric setting. The writing weaves fantasy and reality so well the boundaries blur. But I found the connections between characters and episodes too tenuous to bind the book into a coherent story, though some of the subplots would have been strong enough to carry an outstanding book by themselves if they’d been allowed. I found several of the characters impossible to care about, in particular Evalina, who was so grating I almost DNF’d. The parts I enjoyed most were the slow unravelling of Mooshum’s story and the truth of the lynching, but the mass murder in the opening scene which overshadowed the whole story barely seemed to touch many of the other events. 3 stars.

IMAG2029Tower of Dawn was a disappointment. For nostalgia’s sake at least, I hoped the return to my favourite character would recapture some of my earlier love for this series. Sadly, Yrene and even Chaol’s personalities became bland, and the political manoeuvring fell flat. The disability rep was treated with respect, and many of the thoughts, challenges and changing attitudes Chaol dealt with were hugely relatable, but let down by the way the storyline was resolved (I discuss it in my Goodreads review with spoilers). When the story did get going, the tension and drama were interwoven with the slower healing scenes very well, and some of the plot twists were huge, with stakes raised for the rest of the series. Nesryn and Sartaq saved the book, for me. Nesryn really came into her own as a character, while Sartaq, his growing friendship with Nesryn, and their interactions with the ruhkin were a delight. And, for once, the romance plot(s) didn’t centre on over-bearing, possessive, hyper-masculine characters – a welcome relief. 3.5 stars.

January book haul

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I’m not entirely sure what happened here. I pre-ordered Chainbreaker some time ago, and Flashtide was a must-buy after it failed to materialise under the Christmas tree despite heavy hint dropping. Then there were a couple of second hand buys, including the big non-fiction book, which is entirely justifiable as research for my writing. And then… Well, I can only put it down to a moment of weakness on Amazon. And this isn’t even half of it; there’s a whole bunch of pre-orders I put in at the same time.

I also have a huge ebook haul this month (we’re talking about 20!) But almost all of those were gifted so they only generate a small amount of TBR-related guilt. Honest!

Let’s chat!

There’s a comment button right below, whether you agree or disagree with my reviews. I’d love to know what you think. How are your reading goals going so far? And do you have any poetry recommendations for me?

December wrap-up: What I Read

 

Dec 17 Wrap-upIn which I make a last minute rush to 2018

I was still struggling with November’s slump when the month began, and then you add in the chaos of Christmas season. Presents to buy and wrap, food to organise, children’s school events… Up to Boxing Day, I’d read a grand total of three books and a short story. Then along came Kendall at The Geeky Yogi with a readathon and I added five to make the month look a little more respectable. Thank you!

What I read

The highlights

IMG_20171219_202956_303Ruin and Rising is the final book of the Grisha (or Shadow and Bone or whatever we’re supposed to be calling it now) trilogy, and part of a buddy read organised by the brilliant bookstagram.buddy.reads. I didn’t mind the slower start – the Apparat was so decidedly creepy and I enjoyed watching him and Alina try and manipulate each other. When Alina left the tunnels the pace picked up again, and the stakes rose and rose, with gut-wrenching moments where I wondered how there’d be any coming back. Nikolai remains my favourite character, and I would have loved to see more of his story arc. I liked the twists with the Amplifiers; it didn’t go down the easy route with Alina’s powers. There were serious sacrifices required of several characters, but not all of them stuck, which was a little disappointing. I also felt the Apparat’s part in the story fizzled out, when I was expecting consequences to the early conflict. Still, there was drama and pain and action, the plot took some surprising turns, and the ending was bittersweet and mostly satisfying. Despite my quibbles, it was the best book in the series, and I gave it 4.5 stars.

IMG_20171216_003659_863The first thing about The Language of Thorns is that it’s absolutely stunning. The front cover, the illustrations inside and the way they build up page by page as the layers of each story are revealed, even the text is coloured to add to the special feel of this book. The stories are glorious little masterpieces, the dark sort of fairy story where there might be justice at the end but it’ll probably make you uncomfortable. They’re as beautifully written as they are illustrated, and pull you into their world with vivid characters and settings. You can usually see the inspiration of a fairy tale we know well, but they’ve been taken in completely original directions. My favourite might be Amara and the Thorn Wood, but there wasn’t a single one I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. 5 stars.

IMAG2202~2The Hate U Give is one book that absolutely deserves its hype. I mean, really, just go read it. Powerful and thought-provoking, with an MC I could get behind and feel for, and a three-dimensional and varied supporting cast. There were no punches pulled in depicting the reality of the character’s lives and the prejudice and unfairness they faced. But it’s not just an important book about an important topic – it’s also a really good YA contemporary about a girl dealing with the problems of growing up and figuring out who she is and her place in a much less-than-perfect world. 5 stars.

IMG_20180206_221203_944After mixed reviews I didn’t have high expectations of Wintersong, but I ended up loving it. It was otherwordly and yet familiar, with danger around every corner and the sharp, greedy viciousness of traditional folk tales where happily ever after isn’t guaranteed. Liesl wasn’t always easy to like but she was passionate and relateable and I loved her difficult, complex relationships with her family. I was aware she was written (#ownvoices) as having bipolar disorder, although it is never named as such in the book, due to the limited knowledge of the time period. However, the author’s note to the sequel, Shadowsong, acknowledges being hard to like is often an effect. My only (minor) criticisms are that while the Goblin King’s history was fascinating, I didn’t find him as charismatic and mysterious as I think he was supposed to be, and that the pace lagged in the last third or so. 4 stars.

The rest

Do you ever scroll through an author’s page on Goodreads and discover random short stories they’ve published online? Well, The Wives of Azhar was one of those. By Roshani Chokshi, and apparently inspired by Bluebeard’s habit of killing his wives. It was creepy and evocative, altogether unsettling, and while it’s hard to rate something so short and so random, I’d probably say 4 stars.

IMAG1507~2Ok, I’ve never watched The Princess Bride. I’m not sure how; it’s exactly the sort of film I spent a large proportion of my life devouring, but there you have it. If I’d seen it, maybe I would react differently to this book, but having no emotional attachment to the characters, I found the chemistry of this supposed great love story sadly lacking. The action was fun and frantic, the side characters generally enjoyable, and for the first two-thirds of the book I was enjoying it, despite the lengthy asides from the “author” (actually editor) who came across as a hateful and bitter soul. But the ending felt off, unsatisfying, and I couldn’t give it more than 3 stars.

The Thousandth Floor wasn’t what I was expecting. I didn’t know a huge amount about it, only that it was sci-fi, maybe edging towards dystopian. What I got was more like a book version of those TV shows that follow a bunch of glamorous young people while cracks appear in their perfect lives and everything basically disintegrates around them. Almost all of them were unlikable to some degree, though there were Reasons that were slowly picked apart throughout the book. I’m not usually a fan of poor little rich girl tropes, but the cast was surprisingly varied and not all of them fell into that stereotype. I couldn’t look away, and ended up racing through the book in no time. The opening scene was a shocker, and then you’re whipped back in time by a few months and spend the rest of the book trying to work out who, what and why. 3.5 stars.

IMG_20171213_222614_994Another series finale, Frost Like Night ends the Snow Like Ashes trilogy. Unfortunately the MC Meira remained a little too special snowflake for me. But I loved finally getting Ceridwen’s POV, and all in all this was a dramatic and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, with enough death, sacrifice and suffering to make the conclusion feel well-earned. The world-building has always been strong and felt more well-rounded in this instalment. Still a touch too simplistic and with some of the problems overcome too easily for my liking, which prevents it getting a higher rating than 3.5 stars, though it was definitely the best of the series, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting the author’s new book These Rebel Waves.

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares didn’t do anything for me. A pretty typical YA contemporary with characters who grew on me by the end, although I started out not really liking either of them, for completely different reasons. Dash was just unlikable. Lily was Too Damn Cheerful. So sweet she’d give you toothache. It had potential and was well-written, I liked the concept, but it fell short. 3 stars.

December book haul

IMAG2208~2Otherwise known as Christmas! Yes, I managed not to buy a single book for myself this month. It helps that I can fulfil my bookish shopping urges by making sure everyone I know gets at least one book for Christmas, sometimes (often) more.

The books you see in the picture were all presents – and special mention for the Fantastic Beasts book, which was chosen for me by my 8 year old daughter. Yep, I’ve got her well trained.

Let’s chat!

There’s a comment button right below, whether you agree or disagree with my reviews. I’d love to know what you think.

November wrap-up: What I Read

Nov 17 Wrap-upIn which the Slump hits

This was not a good month. Not in any sense. I won’t meander too far into what and why, but my mental health hit possibly an all-time low, I completely flunked NaNoWriMo and I barely managed to read 6 books. 3 of them were graphic novels. And I wouldn’t even have managed that much if I hadn’t committed months ago to a readalong of the Grisha trilogy with a group of bookstagram friends. I might have spent the month terminally behind, but it was the only scrap of motivation I could find this month, so a double shout-out for @bookstagram.buddy.reads and Alex who runs it.

What I read

The highlights

IMG_20171203_231133_667Siege and Storm is book 2 of the Grisha trilogy (are we supposed to be calling it the Shadow and Bone trilogy now?) and more importantly, the book where I finally met Nikolai Lantsov! Priorities in the right place, people. I was prepared to be disappointed – he’s such a hyped character – but I loved him, he was easily the best thing in this book. The story got off to an explosive start and there were several twists that I didn’t anticipate. Alina started to try and take some control over her life, but Mal just became supremely annoying and I didn’t like the introduction of another half-hearted love triangle. This is still a fast, fun, exciting read (well, it would have been fast if I hadn’t been so horrendously slumped!), and the writing style and worldbuilding continue to be outstanding, but the trilogy isn’t going to overshadow the Six of Crows duology any time soon. 4 stars.

Saga Volumes 2 & 3 continue the weirdness of Volume 1 – but they’re still weirdly compelling! I love the art, the characters are vivid and refreshingly different, the world is vast and detailed. The story took several unexpected twists, the death toll continues to mount, and the core story – the survival of Hazel and her parents – is impossible not to get invested in. I gave both volumes 4 stars.

SAM_4991Runaways Volume 1 was my first attempt at reading a graphic novel in ebook format, and I’m glad I could do it on my laptop because I don’t think it would have worked at all well on the smaller screen of a tablet or phone. This is the old version of Runaways, which I’m trying to get up to speed with before I pick up the new Rainbow Rowell version that started this year. And I loved it! The art was the cleaner, brighter style I prefer, the characters were diverse and relatable. The concept of a bunch of teenagers finding out their parents were supervillians was fantastic, and all the squabbling and sparks flying between the runaways as they started to come into their own powers really added to the story. The only downside was the fact this volume contained a lot of set-up, but I can’t wait to continue with the next volumes and see what happens. 4 stars.

The rest

I won’t go into depth on Shadow and Bone, as it was a reread (and the second time this year, so pop over to March if you want the proper review). Suffice to say I still enjoyed it, particularly the world-building, but it will never be my favourite Bardugo and doesn’t live up to the Six of Crows duology.

SAM_3519These Broken Stars was the sort of sci-fi that’s a lot heavier on the romance than the science. Now, I don’t mind that as long as there’s some compelling characters to carry it, to make me care about the romance. Tarver and Lilac were a bit bland, and I don’t particularly like the poor little rich girl trope. Nevertheless, the plot was a pretty good survival story, which I’m always a sucker for, and it kept a good pace, with hints of a wider mystery/conspiracy. I’m hopeful it will come good in the remaining books of the trilogy. 3.5 stars.

November book haul

IMG_20171130_212824_590Look how restrained I was! Two from my FairyLoot subscription box. One second-hand impulse buy, and a couple of ebooks. Practically nothing. Though, I also read practically nothing (and mostly library books), so it doesn’t help at all with my attempts to get my TBR under control. I clearly haven’t got the hang of this.

Let’s chat!

There’s a comment button right below, whether you agree or disagree with my reviews. I’d love to know what you think.

October wrap-up: What I Read

Oct 17 Wrap-upIn which I surprise myself

I may have mentioned, y’know, once or twice, that I’m a fantasy fan at heart. Especially YA fantasy. Well, this month I broadened my repertoire and as it turned out, only one of my favourites was fantasy – a middle grade that doesn’t even fit the usual mould of what a fantasy novel is (that’s Neil Gaiman for you). Instead, there’s a children’s classic, an adult historical (WWII, as well, which is not my preferred time period for historicals), and a YA thriller (I don’t even read thrillers!) I mean, I’m pretty sure this is a Good Thing; it is the whole point of my wanting to read other genres, but it’s just not what I expect to happen.

What I read

The highlights

The Prince and the Pauper was a lot older than I thought it was, and that was reflected in the tone and language, but it was beautifully written, tightly plotted with a number of story threads woven into a very short space, and the strength of the characters (even if they weren’t the most three-dimensional) carried it. A charming children’s classic that I’d still recommend for kids today. It seems ridiculous to be rating it – who am I to argue with the hundreds of years of readers who’ve turned it into a classic? – but I gave it 4 stars anyway.

All The Light We Cannot See was my stand-out book of the month. It was a slow read, because there was so much detail, atmosphere and language on every page. It sprawled over a huge span of time, and I loved that we got to see Marie-Laure and Werner as children, learning who they were and what shaped them before the impact of the war. The characters – both main and side – were unflinchingly real, their good and bad, courage and cowardice all shown, and Werner in particular was extremely compelling – the choices and lack of choices he had, the misgivings that plagued him even as he became part of the war himself. While this wasn’t a book that went into graphic detail about the worst of the Nazi atrocities, it didn’t sugar-coat anything either. It would have been easy to plaster on some kind of happy ending, but in the last few chapters my heart was shredded again and again. 5 stars.

Coraline is one of those rare well-loved book to film transitions, and like most of the others… I haven’t seen it. So I went in without much of a pre-conceived idea of the story. It was weird, atmospheric and definitely creepy. Coraline was a great protagonist, brave, stubborn and resourceful, someone a child of the intended audience would be able to identify with. It’s a short book, and there’s not a lot more to say than I loved it. 4 stars.

IMG_20171008_223247_733I’ve never liked thrillers, and I don’t think I ever will. But the YA versions are safer territory – the language and gore toned down for the audience – and One of Us Is Lying turned out to be a great read. The four viewpoints were pretty distinctive, and the little dripfeed of lies upon lies (spoiler: they’re all lying) kept me guessing what was going to happen next. The main plot twist isn’t impossible to spot (I got it quite late, but then I am Terrible at spotting twists) but all the little details of the four character’s lives coming unravelled kept me hooked anyway. My favourite character arc was probably Addy’s, but they were all well written and far more than the stereotypes the blurb suggests. Two notes of caution – I’ve seen some people upset with the way depression was presented and used in the plot. As a sufferer myself, I didn’t find it hurtful, but others may, so I wanted to flag it. What I did find more grating was the way one character’s sexuality was used as a plot twist. I can understand their reasons for keeping it a secret, and even the less-than-ideal steps they took to keep it so made sense for that character (news flash: teenagers screw up, just like everyone else). What I didn’t like was the way it was hidden even in their own POV chapters, so that it could be used for shock value. Aside from that, this was really enjoyable – 4 stars.

The rest

I ordered To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before from the library before my bad experience with Jenny Han’s Summer trilogy last month. It might have worked out; authors do change and improve over time. Well. It was better. But only really served to finally confirm that this author is not for me. I didn’t like many of the characters, again the protagonist seemed very young for her age, and yes, again with the predictable love triangles. I didn’t want to throw the book across the room when I was finished, but all in all it was pretty average and I’m not sure why it has such rave reviews. 3 stars.

Screenshot_20180118-124045The Dark Days Pact is the second Lady Helen book and had a lot of the same fun, fast-paced action and conflict between Lady Helen’s role as a Reclaimer and the social restrictions society puts on a young, unmarried woman. This book didn’t need as much set-up as the first, and Lady Helen (for various spoilery reasons) has a lot more freedom to get on with the demon-hunting. The complications and raised stakes made for some good tension. However, I am definitely not a fan of the romance – I’ve lost count but we might be up to a pentagon by now, with the amount of pining and falling in love the characters are doing. Honestly, he’s not that irresistible! 3.5 stars.

I also read the short story Lusus Naturae, which is from Lord Carlston’s perspective. I’m not always keen on having scenes from the original book rehashed from another character’s point of view, but I did enjoy this, both for his narrative voice and the insight.

IMAG0741Alex, Approximately was a cute, fun contemporary read, but there’s not a lot more I can say about it. The MC was endearing, the love interest had a decent personality, the plot wasn’t exactly original (another example of the online friends who know each other in real life without realising) but it’s a trope I haven’t got sick of yet and it felt fresh enough. There wasn’t a lot going on beside the romance plot, but if you want something light-hearted and quick this was pretty enjoyable. 3.5 stars

Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes was my second foray into graphic novels. This one had a more traditional comic book style of art which I didn’t enjoy as much as the cleaner art of Saga. It also wasn’t so much a continuous story as a series of episodes revolving around the character of Dream, and there were several different styles of storytelling involved. I liked some aspects of it, the concept of the characters, the blending of fantasy and reality, but I’m not sure whether I want to continue the series. 3 stars.

Screenshot_20180118-124055I’m a little conflicted over Anna Dressed In Blood. On the one hand, I loved the creepiness, the ghost-hunting concept and how Kendare Blake wasn’t afraid to dive straight in with the brutal death toll. The characters (with one or two exceptions) were well-rounded, and I particularly appreciated the pretty, popular girl having a decent personality instead of being reduced to a cliche. On the other hand, the romance wasn’t far short of insta-love, and Cas was a bit of a special snowflake, with a dash of too-stupid-to-live. I liked him as a character, he had a sort of arrogance at the beginning but wasn’t above learning better, but it was never (satisfactorily) explained why he was so special that this bloodthirsty ghost didn’t kill him on sight. I gave it 4 stars.

As a hard-core Potterhead, I’m not sure how I got this far without having read Tales of Beedle the Bard. It’s a very short book, and the Tales themselves are delightful, bite-sized pieces of magic that perfectly fit in with the voice and tone of the world we all know so well. I did find it a little odd that the Dumbledore commentary on each story was as long as the stories themselves, and didn’t enjoy those bits quite so much, but overall, it did a good job of being exactly what it is – a brief dip back into the wizarding world. 3 stars.

October book haul

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I spent the very last of my birthday gift vouchers this month. Don’t let that fool you – only 3 of the books in this picture were covered! Yep, I’m as susceptible to impulse buys as ever. There’s also a few ebooks that didn’t make the picture, even though I’ve virtually stopped reading them due to the headaches I get from using the Kindle app on my tablet for too long. I may need to invest in a Paperwhite so I can make a real dent in my backlog.

Oh, and since only two of the books I read this month were ones I own hard copy (the rest were library books, and a couple of ebooks that were new purchases anyway) my backlog is getting bigger and bigger.

Let’s chat!

There’s a comment button right below, whether you agree or disagree with my reviews. I’d love to know what you think.

September wrap-up: What I Read

In which I have poor judgementSept 17 Wrap-up

My September reading was never going to be as impressive as August. 13 books is still one of my best monthly totals of the year. But while August had so many brilliant reads and highlights I could barely narrow it down, my September reads were… shall we say underwhelming.

Now, this is partly down to the aforementioned poor judgement. I know perfectly well YA contemporary is a tricky genre for me; a lot of books in it simply don’t suit me, perhaps because I’m older than the target audience, or perhaps because it’s such a wide-ranging genre that it’s always going to be a mix. I ought to trust myself and stick to ones I really like the look of, instead of picking up anything I vaguely recognise. Yep, that’s what happened.

What I read

The highlights

The Dark Days Club is best described as Shadowhunters meets Regency Romance. There was nothing particularly deep going on, but it was a fun, quick read. The marriage of the urban fantasy tropes with the social mores of Georgian England might not sound like a match made in heaven but it really worked, the stifling social and familial expectations the MC was under only adding to the conflict and humour. Lord Carlston is one more bad boy with a tragic past and the hints of romance were predictable to say the least – if you’re morally opposed to love triangles you should steer clear – but hell, I enjoyed it. 3.5 stars.

Screenshot_20180109-113001Queens of Geek is another fun, easy YA contemporary with a grounding in the nerdy, fandom worlds I’m so fond of, and I loved the way the diverse cast was incorporated and their various issues handled. However, the story didn’t grab me the way, say, Geekerella did. Still, it was a good book and worth reading just for the angry feminist tendencies of some of the characters (in case there’s any doubt, I view angry feminist tendencies as a Good Thing). One of the MC’s is a girl on the autism spectrum (and #ownvoices) which isn’t something you see very often in YA lit, so if you’re interested in it from the representation point of view I would definitely recommend. 3.5 stars.

Screenshot_20180109-112925Saga Vol. 1 was my first graphic novel and I spent a fair amount of time wondering what on earth I was reading. I loved it anyway; the art was clean and vibrant, the characters leapt off the page, and it had a sort of Star Wars feel to the way so many different races and technologies were just thrown in and you rolled with it. Unlike Star Wars, it is definitely not family friendly. You have been warned! The story zips around between different viewpoints, with the obvious “heroes” being Marko and Alana, the parents from warring races just trying to escape and raise their newborn daughter in peace, but I also loved a number of the side characters such as assassin The Will and his Lying Cat. And that ending! 4 stars.

The rest

IMAG0841The Night Circus was beautifully written, evocative and romantic, with a real sense of wonder and mystery. The characters were likeable if not loveable, and while I often dislike this style of narration – a bit distant, many viewpoints, present tense – it worked for this particular story. The plot, such as it was, took second place to the atmosphere and sense of marvel of the circus. I can definitely see why it’s a favourite for so many people. I’m glad I read it, and it was definitely more enjoyable than not, but there were a lot of parts that were slow or confusing. 3.5 stars.

I got the whole The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy as an omnibus edition from the library. Otherwise, I doubt I would have bothered with the latter two books (It’s Not Summer Without You and We’ll Always Have Summer). I wish I hadn’t. Basically, the entire plot of the entire trilogy boils down to how long can you string out a love triangle between one girl and a pair of brothers. Ugh. She came across very young in the first book, which, you know, fine, the plot was probably supposed to be about growing up as much as the romance. But that was the only book with any sort of half-decent background plot, and she didn’t seem to have improved in book three when she was supposedly a college student. Oh, and the marriage plot in book three just didn’t fit with the young tone and the characters. All in all a complete miss for me. Book one got 3 stars, and it went downhill from there.

IMAG0792Letters to the Lost might have been a favourite in other circumstances, but it dealt with a lot of the same themes as I’ll Give You The Sun, one of last month’s favourites, and didn’t quite measure up. The plot of people writing to each other without realising they know each other in real life isn’t exactly original, but it was done well and I really felt the building chemistry. I loved that Juliet was a photographer with a real passion for her art, something that permeates the story and her viewpoint, and her ongoing grief over her mother’s death was moving and heartfelt. I would have liked it better if not for the twist/reveal at the end – learning to deal with grief and not to judge people so quickly and harshly would have made enough of a story without it. Plus, again, I’ll Give You The Sun had a similar twist but in my view done much better. 4 stars.

Four is a collection of short stories from the Divergent world, written from – you guessed it – Four’s point of view. They were enjoyable enough as they went, and getting some of Four’s background before the events in the main trilogy was interesting. Nothing that’s going to stay with me for long, though. 3 stars.

IMAG0699Hollow City is the second of the Miss Peregrine books, and leapt right into the plot without the degree of worldbuilding and set-up of the first. It made for a tighter, gripping read; the antagonists were far more tangible and threatening, the stakes felt higher and there were a few twists that took me completely by surprise (especially that one at the end). I’m still not sold on the romance, and some of the fantastical elements stretched belief a little too far, though I did enjoy the way the peculiar fairy tales were incorporated into the plot. After the reveals and confrontation at the end of this I’m definitely looking forward to the final instalment. 4 stars.

Screenshot_20180109-112951Radio Silence incorporates a lot of Facebook messaging, tumblr, text messages, Twitter… it did not translate well to audiobook. That aside, the characters and concept were interesting, and the MC in particular was very relatable, but the plot never quite felt joined up. The last quarter was definitely the best, and I did love the focus on friendship rather than romance. One of the characters produced a a podcast called Universe City and the snippets of its episodes included really added depth and atmosphere. 3 stars.

A Room With A View was the first E. M. Forster book I’ve read, but it definitely won’t be the last. Although a little too fond of grandiose philosophy in places, and occasionally confusing, it was an engaging read peopled with delightfully ridiculous characters. Their flaws and foibles took centre stage and were as entertaining to me as they were exasperating to each other. The ending was a little weak, but overall I loved the witty, light-hearted writing style and gave it 3.5 stars.

Z for Zachariah showed its age, but read it for what it was and it works. It’s funny to see how much shorter books aimed at the YA market were! The post-nuclear survival story was much more popular back then, and this is a good example of it. The MC, Ann, was the sort of character you could really root for, resourceful and determined. There was a really claustrophobic feel to the plot and the setting which kept the tension high, and the conflict between the two characters was brilliantly done, the issues of who had the trust and the power, Ann’s options gradually being closed down until the final confrontation. 4 stars.

September book haul

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Ooops. Well, when you walk past a charity shop with a window display of almost all Rick Riordan’s books, including several hardbacks, what else can you do? Then there’s One Dark Throne. I was dubious about it, after finding the first book underwhelming, but since it was on offer I decided to give it another chance.

And while it might be another failure to stop buying so many books, I did at least read more than I bought this month! There’s hope for my TBR yet.

Let’s chat!

There’s a comment button right below, whether you agree or disagree with my reviews. I’d love to know what you think!

August Wrap-Up: What I Read Part 2

Aug 17 Wrap-upIn Which I Spent The Summer Holidays Reading

Firstly, if you missed Part One, you can go catch up, should you feel like a double dose of my ramblings. Secondly, the reason I had to split the wrap-up is because it’s hard to review 21 books in any reasonably-sized single post. Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, I’m still gloating. Part One has the explanation, and in this part I’ll waste no more of your time but dive straight into the non-readathon part of my bookish August.

The Highlights

IMAG0395Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe would probably be described as literary fiction if it wasn’t YA; it’s not like any other YA contemporary I’ve read. There’s not so much a plot as a journey through a period of Ari’s life. Luckily he’s such a compelling character – so lost, angry and sad – that it really works. The other characters are complex and flawed as well, and you’d think the book would feel bleak but there’s always this air of hope to it, and the ending is just perfection. Definitely a must-read – 4.5 stars. Let’s just not talk about the people who would ruin such a beautiful cover by sticking PERMANENT PRETEND STICKERS all over it. Yes, I’m glad it won all those awards. Yes, there really are other ways you could have told me about it.

IMAG0754The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is impossible to categorise. Is it fantasy? Steampunk? Historical fiction? Romance? Whatever it was, it started slow but built into something incredibly beautiful, both in the writing and in the subtle development of the characters and their relationships. The emotion coming through was so heartfelt and understated and had me close to tears at several points. The plot threads wove together gradually and satisfyingly, the story managed to retain the ability to surprise me all the way to the end, and oh my goodness this is one for rereads – the details you pick up on the second go through are amazing. Plus, you know, any book with a clockwork octopus in it has got to be a winner. 4 stars.

The Rest

The Bone Season was a bit of a let down, after I’d heard so many reviewers sing its praises. I loved the setting, a mix of Victoriana and futuristic elements with a seedy, gritty feel that played perfectly off the MC, Paige, with her confidence and anger and sense of injustice that really fed into the plot. But the info-dumping, especially early on, was very heavy-handed and stopped me really getting engaged with the story. I also had a problem with the antagonists, who felt a stretch too far for belief and almost pantomime-y at times, at odds with many of the other characters who were fascinating and complex. When the plot got going it was a great mix of intrigue, danger and not knowing who (if anyone) could be trusted, but the romance felt rushed, maybe even unnecessary. I’ve been told the other two books out so far in this series really improve (especially on the info-dumping side) and there was enough good in here to make me willing to give them a try. Side note – I went into this thinking it was YA fantasy, but apparently it’s adult, or at least crossover. 3.5 stars.

The Bane Chronicles on a square of white booksThe Bane Chronicles collection of short stories is a mixture of fluffy, fan-service snippets (especially the ones featuring his relationship with Alec) and episodes that cast a little more light on events in the other Shadowhunter series. All of them showcase Magnus at his best, as witty and irreverent and… well… sparkly as ever. It’s fascinating to learn more about his past and his connections with other characters, many of whom show up in person. It’s hard to rate the stories individually, but if I had to choose a favourite it might be Vampires, Scones and Edmund Herondale, or Saving Raphael Santiago. All together, they paint a larger picture and earn 3.5 stars

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is my favourite sort of horror – where the ‘monster’ is human nature, twisted and exaggerated to be sure, but still rooted in people, not a frightening ‘other’. This is more novella length but that works, packing the menace and uncertainty into a smaller space. I still struggle a little with the tendency of Victorian novels to narrate at a distance, as if someone not directly involved is telling the story, and that’s the main reason it doesn’t get more than 3.5 stars.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was not what I expected. At all. Instead of the ghost story I was looking forward to (and which every film adaptation I’m aware of turned it into) I got a tale of entirely human folly, with a dash of greed and jealousy thrown in. Having said that, it was actually very well written, with gloriously vivid descriptions of setting and character alike packed into a short space of pages – 3 stars.

If you were considering reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover because it’s a considered a classic, don’t bother. If you were considering reading it to see why it was considered so shocking, don’t bother. Harsh? Maybe, but this book was truly awful and if not for the controversy surrounding it’s original banning, I doubt it would still be anywhere near the public consciousness in the way it is. Yes, there’s swearing and nudity and sex. But it’s all incredibly tedious, none of the characters are likeable and the philosophising of the author/narrator and the various chips on his shoulder got old very, very quickly. Somehow, I finished it. 1 star.

Bookhaul

Screenshot_20180104-124307~2Did I mention it was my birthday in August? A birthday does not make for a reasonable-looking bookhaul! The picture says it all, I think. Oh, all except for Red Queen and One Of Us Is Lying, which arrived on the very last day of August after I’d already taken my haul photo. Some were from the second-hand bookshop, so they hardly count. Some were birthday presents, or bought with gift vouchers. Wicked Like A Wildfire was my FairyLoot book (one I’d had on my wishlist anyway, so three cheers for FairyLoot). And yes, some were impulse buys – most notably the Percy Jackson box set. I read books one and two last year, from the library, but never quite got round to the rest of them. And of course, I have already ‘read’ A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue as an audiobook and loved it so much I had to get a hard copy.

Let’s chat!

I know I’m still way behind on these wrap-up things, August in January, but I’m trying and I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the books I read or bought, or recommendations for more. Comment down below & have a virtual cookie.

August Wrap-Up: What I Read – Part 1

Aug 17 Wrap-upIn Which I Love Readathons

This month I took part in two, both Instagram based. And damn, did they work for me. August was the month when… wait for it… I read TWENTY ONE books.

This is kind of a big deal for me. I’ve mentioned a few times on here that I’d lost a lot of my reading habit since having children. I’m back, people! So you can see why I’ve had to split this month’s wrap-up into two parts. This post, I’ll talk about the readathons, and next time I’ll be back for the rest.

TBRKnockdown24

The clue’s in the name – this was the 24 hour readathon. I hit a glitch with time zones, never my strong point, when 8pm on a Saturday evening in Australia (a perfectly reasonable time to sit and read like a maniac) became 11am in the morning here in the UK. Still perfectly reasonable – unless you happen to be a responsible adult with three small children rampaging around the house. Just as well we don’t know anyone matching that description.

I fit in two whole books and two half books around the children and with the help of a rather late night. Not bad for 24 hours!

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The highlight was The Upside Of Unrequited was a bright, cute and adorable contemporary, set above the rest of the genre by the fantastic MC, Molly. She was relatably insecure and awkward but trying not to be, her relationships with her friends and family were complex and shifting but you could always tell she was good-hearted beneath it all, and hooray for real, meaningful diversity of all types and a heroine – a romantic heroine, no less – who (mostly) unflinchingly describes herself as fat but isn’t looking for weight loss to solve her problems. Four stars, and (controversial!) I actually preferred this to Becky Albertalli’s first book, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

I also enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, which I felt was aimed at the younger end of the YA market but still had an interesting concept and decent worldbuilding. It had a few pacing problems, mainly where exposition had to take place, and occasionally the action felt a little disengaged or irrelevant, but other than that it was an enjoyable ride of an adventure with interesting and not always likeable characters and a sense of mystery, and the inclusion of the vintage photos throughout the book really added to the atmosphere. 3.5 stars.

There are books which are average, or disappointing, or just not for me, but very few I actually hate. The Graces was one of them. I feel bad saying it about a writer’s work, but I found this book plain unreadable. Not a single character was likeable, the MC suffered from the worst case of Not Like Other Girls I’ve ever seen (she said so outright. Many times.) and it was trying so hard to be dark and dangerous but just… wasn’t. Obsession masqueraded as love, which might have been the point, but the lesson was never learned. I skipped the whole middle section and read the end without feeling I’d really missed anything. 1 star, DNF.

Beat The Heat Summer Readathon

Another week-long readathon, but unlike last month’s BookTubeAThon, it had no theme or specific challenges other than to make a big ole dent in your TBR.

Eleven books, people. Eleven books in one week. Allow me a moment of smugness, if you will.

The highlights

Screenshot_20180101-221208After enjoying The Raven Boys last month, I binge-read the remaining three books in the Raven Cycle. The story meanders and takes unexpected about-turns, and as the series progresses there’s more and more a sense of real menace and of things falling apart. And it’s still all about the characters, with every member of the expanding cast as complex and interesting as the main five. The character development – both good and bad – is amazing, the writing is beautiful and evocative, and the books never cease to surprise. Dream Thieves was my least favourite of the three; it felt like a diversion from the main story thread, though the amount of time spent with Ronan was a saving grace and it was still a solid 3 stars. Blue Lily, Lily Blue went back up to 4, and The Raven King was a satisfying conclusion to the series with enough pain and sacrifice to make the payoff worth waiting for, and a full 5 stars. My favourite Raven Boy? Maybe a slightly unpopular opinion, but Adam Parrish.

IMAG0922I was warned to have tissues on hand for History Is All You Left Me. It didn’t quite drive me to tears (what can I say, I’m a hard-hearted soul) but there were definitely a lot of feelings. Having the storyline unfold in past and present was meant we watch poor Griffin’s life collapse around him in both directions. It’s also own voices for OCD, and really shone a light on a condition that’s too often reduced to comic effect. All the characters were so likeable and real, their rough edges and nasty moments not glossed over. I was surprised by a few turns the story took, and the ending was spot on. Enough resolution, but not too perfect. 4 stars and Adam Silvera goes on the autobuy list.

Screenshot_20180101-220850I’ll Give You The Sun was almost unbelievably vivid. Told in first person from each of a pair of twins, it was never confusing which was which. The imagery of art and luck and life running through it was gorgeously done, lyrical and gripping and un-put-downable. I wanted to cheer for Jude’s rediscovery of herself and weep for all Noah’s broken dreams. At its heart, it deals with grief and guilt and lost confidence, and yes it might get a bit heavy on the romance (and one love interest is a bit of a cliche) but the way it’s written that draws you into the twins’ worlds and makes it so much more than the sum of those parts – 4 stars.

The Time Machine is a classic for a reason; the power of imagination evident in the story is incredible, and it’s easy to see why H G Wells is regarded as one of the founding fathers of science fiction. His ideas of how the human race might have evolved, split into two races as a long-term result of industrialisation and the class divide, is as thought-provokingly creepy now as it must have been at the time of publication, and the attention to detail in both the people and the world around them is a lesson in world-building that current day genre writers should learn from. Definitely still worth the read today – 4 stars.

The rest

Enchanted Glass had Diana Wynne Jones’ typically whimsical sense of humour and writing style, and a fantastic magic system which I wish we’d seen more of, but the plot was lacking, and there were large sections of the book where not a lot seemed to be happening, or worse, whenever a problem did occur the protagonists took a break to go home and sleep/eat/think. One protagonist seemed a very odd choice for a YA book – a thirty-something absent-minded professor – but the other was more engaging. The antagonists were fantastically creepy but spent too little time in direct conflict, and the resolution (the tying up of loose ends rather than the showdown itself) was a letdown. Not her best – 2.5 stars.

The entire book of The 100: Day 21 felt like a cheat. There was far too much focus on unbelievable and un-engaging romance rather than, you know, survival. The Angst was back in full swing, and character development was horribly inconsistent. Half the conflict which did occur could have been avoided if the characters hadn’t been needlessly keeping things from each other, half petered out on its own and the rest (yes, I know that doesn’t add up) was left hanging and unresolved – presumably to the next book, but I won’t be bothering to read it to find out. I’m bored with this whole series now. 2 stars.

Screenshot_20180101-220941Wait For Me was a new genre for me – when I do occasionally read historical novels they tend to be adult lit, but this was YA, and also set during WWII, a period I don’t normally gravitate to. It deals more with the impact of a distant, impersonal war on everyday life than with it’s specifics, and the romance at its heart was sweet and engaging, as was the MC with her struggle to find her place in the world and navigate friends, enemies, dreams and disappointments. I enjoyed the story’s details and simple but elegant writing style, which were grounded firmly in its setting, but it lacked a certain spark to elevate it beyond pleasant. If you’re a bigger fan of the genre or of romance book in general, you’d probably really enjoy this. For me it was 3 stars.

Screenshot_20180101-221009Cruel Crown is the bind-up of two short stories written as prequels to the Red Queen series, which is one of my favourites. The first was from Coriane’s (Cal’s mother) point of view, but her character had so little drive or agency it left me frustrated, and also a little confused, with the diary entry format having too many gaps and too much distance, although I did enjoy seeing the petty nastiness and ambition of a younger Elara. The second, from Captain Farley, was much more interesting and the backstory it reveals added to the complexity of her character and actions, already a favourite of mine from the main series. Overall, 3 stars.

SAM_2461I’d been looking forward to Wayfarer since January but it fell short of my (admittedly high) expectations and didn’t live up to Passenger. I spent the first third unbearably confused, and after a fast-paced and action-packed start the pace dropped frustratingly. The parts of the book with Nicholas and Etta separated didn’t work as well for me, and the various conflicting timelines and double-triple-crossing characters made it hard to follow the overall plot. The middle picked up, making more sense and seeming to lead to a satisfying conclusion, only then to be thrown around into something completely different and equally confusing at the end. There were good points – the Belladonna had potential as a villain, even if it was eventually squandered, the action scenes were gripping, and some of the betrayals had me gasping and cursing. Sophia’s character development was outstanding and definitely elevated parts of the book. But there were so many twists that some of them weren’t followed through. I left, ultimately, feeling unsatisfied to the tune of 3 stars.

Stay tuned…

… for part 2, the other ten books I read outside readathons. I’ll have it up as soon as I can! In the meantime, let’s chat about the books in this half and since I’m always up for recommendations, throw me some contemporaries in the vein of this month’s successes. Or answer August’s real burning question – your favourite Raven Boy.