Library Scavenger Hunt: November

This month’s challenge was to read a book that I should have read in school, and really, I could’ve picked any number of things, as I used to really hate reading, and tried to avoid assigned reading whenever possible. But since most of those books are ones I still have very little interest in reading, my choice was somewhat obvious:

NORTHANGER ABBEY
Jane Austen

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland is obsessed with Gothic novels, and all the horrors that they can offer, and when she’s given the opportunity to visit Bath with some family friends, she’s able to meet others who share her passion – but her new friends are not all who they appear to be, and Catherine may be leading herself into a different kind of trouble than what’s found in the books that so enthral her.

I first started reading Northanger Abbey in secondary school, but only made it about halfway through before my own feelings of embarrassment on Catherine’s behalf made me unable to continue; and while her visit to the Abbey was just as awkward as I remember, I’m happy to say that I managed to power through this time, and actually finished the book. And, more importantly, I really loved it! 😁 Catherine is still naive and foolish, but in a way that makes her seem incredibly true to life, rather than just irritating, and I really enjoyed her relationship with the Tilneys, and how it contrasted with her relationship with Isabella and John Thorpe.

Austen’s writing is also as excellent as always; there are lots of asides in this book where she talks about the literary and societal conventions of the time, and they’re frequently hilarious. One of my favourite passages in the book is one such aside, where Austen discusses how novels are looked down upon as a choice of reading material, and how strange it is that authors always seem to write about heroines who despise them… 😂 Austen is frequently praised as an excellent romance writer (which she is, of course), but she also had a brilliant sense of humour, which shouldn’t be overlooked.

[Find out more about the Library Scavenger Hunt by following this link!]

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Upcoming Releases: Winter 2017-18

A lot of sequels and spin-offs seem to be coming up in December, January & February, including one that I’m absolutely desperate for by my favourite author! 😁 Winter always seems to be somewhat barren in terms of exciting new releases, but I think that these four at least, are worth paying attention to:

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 4/12/2018.]

The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman (14th December)

The fourth book in the Invisible Library series, which follows a woman called Irene who travels between worlds in order to collect and preserve unusual books for her workplace, the mysterious Invisible Library. Seeing this book pop up in my feed was a massive – and wonderful – surprise, as I’d been under the impression that this series was just a trilogy! 😊 I’ll be more excited once I’m all caught up on the earlier books, but for now it’s just great to see that there’s so much more of Irene and Kai to come. Excitement level: 6/10

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu (3rd January)

The second book in the new DC Icons series, which is written by several popular YA authors and features DC’s characters as teenage superheroes… I don’t know how connected this one is going to be to its predecessor (Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman: Warbringer), which I haven’t read, and wasn’t planning to, but since Batman is one of my favourites, I might have to dive into this series after all… & it looks like there’ll also be a Catwoman book coming up later in the year. Excitement level: 7/10

Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton (1st February)

The third and final book in the Rebel of the Sands trilogy, which was a surprise hit with me when I picked up the first book last year… The trilogy combines the Wild West and Arabian Nights-style settings, and follows a gunslinging heroine called Amani, who in the first book escapes from the small desert town where she’s grown up, and inadvertently ends up joining a rebellion… This is another series that I’m not yet up-to-date on, though, so I’ll reserve the majority of my anticipation for after I’ve read Traitor to the ThroneExcitement level: 6/10

Tempests & Slaughter by Tamora Pierce (6th February)

And last but by no means least, Tempests & Slaughter! 😆 I feel like I must’ve waited an age for this book – it’s been listed on Pierce’s website as “in progress” for years now – but it’s finally here! This is the first in a new Tortall-universe series that will follow the adventures of Numair Salmalín (first introduced in The Immortals quartet) as a young man at  University in Carthak. I expect that seeing Numair without Daine will be somewhat strange, but I’m hoping that the lack of Daine will be made up for by Arram and Ozorne, and a lot of exploration of Carthaki society. 👍 Excitement level: 10/10

November Wrap-Up

I spent most of November pushing through a reading slump, so I haven’t been reading all that much. Or posting, either. (Sorry about that 😓) But it does seem to be coming to an end, or at least tapering off somewhat… In any case, here’s what I did  manage to read last month (and there’s a post that’s in the works for each of them, hopefully coming up soon):

Homecoming by Kass Morgan. The third book in the 100 series, in which the original hundred children who were sent back to Earth are joined by others from the Ark, and the two groups struggle to find a balance between their two different methods for survival. This series only seems to get weaker as it goes on, but I still enjoyed this book for its silliness (and a fair amount of fanservice).Rebellion by Kass Morgan. The last book in the 100 series, which focuses on an extra plot involving a fanatic Earth-worshipping cult… This book probably didn’t need to happen (apparently Homecoming was supposed to be the last, but I guess Morgan & her publishers decided to carry on due to the TV show’s popularity?), but although it was the peak of the series’ ridiculousness, it was still fairly entertaining in places. I liked that Octavia got a slightly bigger role in the story (though I can’t say that there was much else in the way of character development), as well as the continuing focus on Clarke & Bellamy’s relationship… But for the most part, the story and characters just seemed to be getting stale. 😕Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. My Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month! 😁 & definitely a winner. The earliest of Austen’s novels, which follows a teenage heroine who loves to read gothic romance and horror, and tends to confuse reality with the literary conventions of her time. The characters were really well fleshed-out, the story was a tonne of fun, and the writing was hilarious… My review will, with luck, be up very shortly.

October Wrap-Up

One of the best reading months I’ve had in a while – in terms of both quality and quantity! 😁 I’ll definitely need to buckle down on my reading resolutions if I want to complete them all before the end of the year, but if the next two months are anything like October, then completion is a real possibility~ 🎶 Over the last month I read a grand total of five novels, and one collection of essays, and those were…

The 100 by Kass Morgan. The first book in a series by the same name, which follows a group of teenagers who’ve lived in a space station all their lives due to a nuclear apocalypse that took place 300 years ago, but are now being sent back to Earth as an experiment to see if the radiation levels have died down enough for the planet to be survivable. This book was great fun, if a bit unbelievable at times, and watching the (much darker, and arguably superior) TV adaptation alongside the book made for an interesting experience; they’re great complements to each other. I’m hoping to do a side-by-side comparison of the two once I’m all caught up on both series, but that shouldn’t be too far off at the rate I’m devouring them! 😋Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs. The third and final book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series, which marries creepy vintage photography with a story about a group of talented children travelling through time in order to save their friends (and the world). I found this to be the weakest book in the series for a number of reasons, but it was still very enjoyable to read… It was also my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so you can find a full review of it here.On the Pleasure of Hating by William Hazlitt. A collection of essays on various topics, including imagination, slavery, monarchy, and more. I found Hazlitt’s writing style to be somewhat unnecessarily wordy, but his ideas were very interesting. The autobiographical essay The Fight I had no interest in whatsoever (it being an impassioned defence of a sport I have no opinion of whatsoever), but I enjoyed all the other five – and in particular, the final (and titular) essay, On the Pleasure of Hating.Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, wherein Lizzy and Darcy are brought together in mutual disdain when reality-TV star Chip Bingley moves to Lizzy’s hometown and begins a relationship with Lizzy’s yoga-instructor sister Jane. Not too far from the standard for an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but beyond its basic premise, it was imaginative and unexpected, and excellently written. I’ve posted a full review of Eligible, which you can read here if you want to find out more. 😊

Day 21 by Kass Morgan. The sequel to The 100, which I talked about at the beginning of this post… It picks up exactly where the first book left off, and continues with the same tone and pacing – though there were a great deal more eye-roll moments in this one. (Just so you know, I say that with great affection.) Of the four main characters, I’m most invested in Clarke and Bellamy (naturally), but I also really like Glass’ perspective… and I could do without Wells. It’s not that his actions in this book are particularly objectionable, but I really dislike how Morgan seems to be setting him up as a heroic character, despite the highly questionable backstory she’s given him in the book-continuity. There were also a couple of big plot twists near the end of the book, but neither of them came as a huge surprise; the foreshadowing was a bit too obvious. Nevertheless, I am still really liking this series! (… Though each book is such a quick read that I almost wish that the whole series was just one massive novel.)The Black Moon by Winston Graham. The fifth book in the Poldark series, and the first of the ones that Graham wrote after his twenty-year break… It’s surprising how seamlessly it continues on from Warleggan, though it was somewhat calmer in tone than the last couple of books, since the most pressing dramas from the first four books had already been (mostly) resolved. I personally had been getting a bit worn out by the constant tension, so this change was something of a relief to me, but a few new dramas were introduced in order to take their place, involving Dwight’s stint in the Navy, and some new protagonists; Demelza’s brothers Sam and Drake, along with Geoffrey Charles, and Elizabeth’s young cousin Morwenna, to whom I became particularly attached. This was an incredibly strong revival for the series, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

Teaser Tuesday #11

THE RULES:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

At the moment I’m reading Homecoming by Kass Morgan, the third book in the 100 series (though if I’d decided to write this post half an hour earlier earlier, then I’d be talking about a different book altogether. 😋), which is set in the aftermath of the nuclear apocalypse, where humanity survived by going into space, but are now forced to return to Earth several generations before they’d planned to, because their space station is running dangerously low on air. The books follow a group of teenage prisoners who are the first to be sent down to Earth, to see if it’s survivable, and documents the trials of life on an irradiated planet. The premise is great, the execution is maybe not so great, but I’ve been finding these books buckets of fun regardless… 😁

Teaser #1:

“Already luring children into the woods like a real creepy hermit, are we? That didn’t take long.”

Teaser #2:

He knew that strict order was absolutely necessary on the ship, but it’d be hard for the guards to abandon their mantra of shoot first, ask questions later.

[Teaser Tuesday was created by MizB over at A Daily Rhythm.]

Review: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (Spoiler-Free)

Liz Bennet and her sister Jane have returned to their childhood home in Cincinnati to look after their father’s health, not to be pestered by their mother about their non-existant love lives, and rapidly approaching expiration dates – but apparently nobody bothered to inform Mrs. Bennet of that fact… Enter Chip Bingley, wealthy doctor, reality TV star, and on the lookout for love! He’s everything that Mrs. Bennet ever wanted for one of her daughters. But although Jane does like Chip very much, Liz’s feelings are complicated by the presence of his obnoxious, entitled best friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Eligible is a novel that brings Pride and Prejudice beautifully into the present day, managing to modernise the storyline without abandoning any of the complexities that gave the original story its charm, but instead updating them to work in a modern setting: The way to fix the Bennets’ financial problems is not simply for one of the daughters to find a wealthy husband, and Liz could never marry even this new version of Mr. Collins (who she’s actually quite fond of), not only because he’s her cousin, but also because she will always think of him as the naked three-year-old that he was when they first met. The way that Sittenfeld interpreted the Wickham episode by breaking it in two I found particularly clever, and while the progress of Liz’s relationship with Jasper Wick was somewhat predictable, the fued between Wick and Darcy had an interesting origin, and I loved the portrayal of Ham Ryan, the second half of Wickham who is heavily involved in Lydia’s character arc.

The writing and pacing are both excellent as well. I found the first few chapters quite slow, but by the time I was around fifty pages in I was completely hooked, and I managed to read the whole book in just a few sittings (and it’s a pretty long book; around 500 pages, with a tiny font and margins). Sittenfeld also side-steps a lot of the common problems with Jane Austen retellings by not even attempting to imitate Austen’s style (something that’s frequently done, even in modernisations, but usually just comes off as contrived), and also by ageing up the main characters from the early twenties to late thirties…

This is a book that I never knew I needed in my life until it was already there, and I’m so glad that I read it! It’s miles better than most of the other best Pride and Prejudice retellings I’ve come across (and I’ve read a lot of them), and interprets Austen’s original tale with wit, originality, and an undated outlook on the world. While it’s far from the best book in the world, it was buckets of fun to read, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for more of Lizzy and Darcy in their life.

Review: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Spoiler-Free)

[Warning: This is a spoiler-free review, but I will be referencing some events from Ancillary Justice, so if you haven’t started the series at all yet, beware. Click here for my review of the first book.]

Athoek Station is almost as far from the Lord of the Radch’s influence as it’s possible to get without leaving the Empire; with a great deal of wealth and prestige – both from it’s thriving tea industry – and an alarming schism between the ruling and working classes. Breq has been sent here in order to protect the Station from the no-longer-secret war between the two different parts of the Lord of the Radch herself… but she has her own agenda, too: to make contact with the Horticulturalist Basnaaid Elming, the younger sister of Lieutenant Awn.

This book involved a mixture of politics and culture that made for an incredibly interesting story, but the scale of it surprised me somewhat; the ending of Ancillary Justice seemed to promise far-reaching changes to the Radch Empire, but it seems that Athoek Station is just a bit too far for those changes to have taken effect. And although this does make sense when considering that Athoek is a remote station, on the very edge of Radch territory, it makes it an odd place for Leckie to have chosen to set the book.

It’s also never made entirely clear why Breq is sent to Athoek at all. She mentions several times in the first book wanting to track down Awn’s younger sister, Basnaaid, which is motive enough on her own part, but why does the Lord of the Radch want her there? Is it simply to spread the word of the now-open war? Because that would seem to be a mission that Breq would approve of, but she expends very little effort in trying to convince the local government of what’s happened. Or is she simply there to defend the station? That’s definitely a task that she throws herself into, but it seems strange that the Lord of the Radch would send Breq to protect a place that is both incredibly far away from her, and also grants her very little tactical advantage… While I did enjoy the story a lot, I’m still not sure why it happened, or how it’s supposed to affect the series going forward.

Another surprise in this book was how small Seivarden’s role in it was; when at the end of the last book, she decided to accompany Breq on Mercy of Kalr, I expected that their relationship (which was one of my favourite things about Ancillary Justice) would be explored a lot further, but although Seivarden’s feelings towards Breq are made even more plain in this book, they actually spend very little time together. I did, however, like the focus that was put on some of the newer characters: Sirix provided an interesting and unique perspective on Athoek Station; Tisarwat played an unexpectedly prominent role in the story, and managed to bring out a new side of Breq that was both frightening and compassionate. And I particularly liked the contrast between Mercy of Kalr’s human crew who acted like ancillaries (usually represented by Kalr Five), Breq who was an ancillary but was thought to be human, and the actual ancillaries of Sword of Atagaris that they encountered at the station…

(If you’ve noticed that I didn’t even mention Basnaaid Elming, then it’s because she also played a surprisingly small part in the book.)

Ancillary Justice is a tough act to follow; it’s probably my favourite book of the year so far. My sky-high expectations, combined with a dramatic shift in tone, meant that naturally this sequel was something of a disappointment to me… but it’s still an excellent book. I’m very eager to finish the trilogy.