December Wrap-Up

Happy New Year, everyone! The last month of 2017 was, for me, full of shopping and baking, an awful lot of eating, and – of course – lots and lots of books. Most of what I read was actually short stories, as I was trying to tick off the last of my reading challenges for the year, but still, I did a lot more reading in the last month than I have in a while. 😊 In total, I managed to read three novels, and eight short stories (and, yes, I did manage to complete that challenge 🎊).

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally. The first book in the Hundred Oaks series, a collection of contemporary books that share a setting, but have largely disconnected stories and lead characters… I had high hopes for this series as another set of cute contemporaries – this time with a sports focus, which I seem to be susceptible to 😅 – but I probably would have been better off just re-reading Now & Then (by Emma Mills), which is just a better book all around. It was quite cute, but the characters were all pretty bland, and the story and romance were both completely predictable. I doubt I’ll be reading any more from this series.Bombshells by Jim Butcher.Dresden Files novella that I found in the Dangerous Women anthology, which follows Harry Dresden’s apprentice Molly on what she thinks is a mission to rescue a vampire who’s being held hostage – but she quickly realises that she’s only been told a small fraction of the true story. I found the plot of this quite interesting, but, as someone who’s only read the tiniest bit of The Dresden Files (volume 1 of one of the graphic novel adaptations) and barely remembers it, most of the finer details were lost on me… I definitely think that this is a story that is aimed at people who already know the series, though it does still make an enjoyable standalone.Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughn. A short story from the Dangerous Women anthology about a Soviet fighter pilot during the second world war, who’s aiming for the five kills she needs in order to be recognised as an ace fighter, but is held back by worry for her brother, who’s recently been declared missing in action. As is the case with many short stories, I enjoyed this, but found that there wasn’t really enough of it for me to find something to get really invested in. Raisa was an interesting character, and seeing the air force from the perspective of a female pilot was also interesting… Given everything that she was going through, however, I was surprised that the narrative was so fast-paced and action-oriented…Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale. Another short story from Dangerous Women, though in this case the titular dangerous woman didn’t have much of an active role in the story; the main character is a teenager called Marvin who’s having problems with bullies, and ends up being taken under the wing of a surprisingly tough old man, who turns out to be a former wrestler. These days, he only fights once every five years though, against a rival who’s in love with the same woman… Despite my dislike for wrestling, I really liked this story; it’s definitely one of my favourites so far from this anthology. Marvin was a great, relatable lead, and the old man (usually called by his stage name X-Man) offered both wisdom and comedy… I was more interested in Marvin’s situation with the bullies than with X-Man & Jesus’ rivalry, but both parts were very entertaining. 👍 (Also, major Karate Kid vibes, especially in the first half.)Neighbors by Megan Lindholm. A short story (also from Dangerous Women) about an old woman called Sarah whose neighbour disappears one foggy night. Sarah witnesses Linda’s departure, but when she later sees strangers in the streets wearing Linda’s distinctive backpack, nobody believes her. Meanwhile, believing her to be unable to care for herself any longer, Sarah’s two children try to persuade her to sell her house and move into an assisted living home… A powerful and moving (and also quite sad) take on growing old, with a touch of magical realism, and an incredibly unreliable narrator. Lindholm’s writing was beautiful, and made me feel really connected to Sarah, which is an impressive feat in a story that’s less than fifty pages long. Definitely a hit!

I Know How to Pick ‘Em by Lawrence Block. A man and a woman meet in a bar, and the woman takes the man home with her, hoping that she can entice him to help her sort out a little problem, but unfortunately he’s already guessed at her plan, and has one of his own. This short story (from Dangerous Women) was an interesting look into the minds of two terrible people (neither named); one incredibly selfish, and the second – from whose perspective the story is told – deeply disturbed. And Block’s narrative cleverly makes it so that it takes a while to realise exactly how awful each of the characters (but particularly the second one) truly is… I don’t know if I’d say that I enjoyed this, but it definitely got me thinking.Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson. A short story from Dangerous Women which is set in the world of Cosmere, and tells the tale of an innkeeper and her daughter, who live in the middle of a dangerous forest filled with spirits, and secretly hunt down criminals who cross their path. Sanderson’s worldbuilding is always top-notch, and this story was no exception to that rule; he was really able to bring the forest and all its dangers to life. The plot was really intriguing, too, and I really liked both the main characters, Silence and William Ann… I believe there are more Cosmere books, but I definitely feel that this story can stand alone.Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot. The final book in the Princess Diaries series, set several years after the conclusion of the main series, and documenting Mia’s adult life, where her main thoughts have shifted from Michael, her domineering grandmother, Michael, and the difficulty of being a teenage princess, to Michael, her still domineering grandmother, Michael, and the difficulty of being a no-longer-teenage princess… So, Mia is still the same person she’s always been, and I kind of love her for it. And also find her hilarious. 😂 This book was very much a blast from the past, and I enjoyed it immensely; I hadn’t realised quite how much I’d missed Mia and all her crazy worries. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so you can find a full review of it here.A Queen in Exile by Sharon Kay Penman. A historical short story (from Dangerous Women) about Queen Constance of Sicily, with a focus on her husband’s invasion of her homeland, and the birth of her son (Frederick II, who would go on to become the Holy Roman Emperor). This was an interesting story, but I’m not sure how much I actually liked Constance’s voice, and Penman’s writing style was rather matter-of-fact… I am, however, somewhat curious to read some of her other books, so clearly it wasn’t actually all that off-putting. 😉

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell. Snapshots of a pair of friends during the countdown to every New Year they’ve experienced together. This was a really cute little story (from the anthology My True Love Gave to Me, for a change! 😋); not as good as Kindred Spirits, Rowell’s other short story, but that one sets the bar pretty high. The characters were well fleshed-out, however, and the snapshots of them year after year showed the progression of their relationship brilliantly.Radio Silence by Alice Oseman. My final book of the year follows a sixth-former called Frances, who is focused on doing well at school to the exclusion of almost everything else – until one evening a boy she knows accidentally reveals himself to her as the creator of her favourite podcast, Universe City, which tells the tale of a person stuck in a strange, monster-ridden university campus. I heard briefly about this book a while ago, but wasn’t really all that interested in reading it until I found it on a list of books with confirmed asexual characters, something that there isn’t nearly enough of in the literary world as a whole, let alone YA… But I’m really glad that I decided to pick this up, as it connected with me on so many levels, even disregarding the asexuality issues that it brings up (briefly; that’s not the focus of the book by a long shot). I’ll be posting a review soon (once I’ve got all my New Year posts out of the way), so keep an eye out for that, but in short: An amazing book, and definitely one of my favourites of 2017.

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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.

September Wrap-Up

Last month seems to have been something of a reading rollercoaster; the highs were high, and the lows were rock bottom… 😓 On the whole, though, I’d say the good outweighed the bad. Here are the five novels I managed to read in September:

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice. An erotic retelling of Sleeping Beauty that had so many problems beyond just not being my thing… I’ve written a full review of this book – voicing all my confusion and frustration over it – which you can find here, if you so desire. But in short: the characters were bland, the plot was non-existant, the world-building (which my brain got really stuck on for some reason) was abysmal, and the sex scenes were boring and repetitive… 😑 Would not recommend. To anyone.Now I Rise by Kiersten White. The sequel to Now I Darken, which follows a Lada who has now left the Ottoman court to reclaim her throne, and her brother Radu, who has stayed behind in a seemingly hopeless attempt to win Mehmed’s love. Ah, I love this series so much! 💕 And everything seems to be escalating beautifully; it’s such an exciting novel! Obviously I can’t say much about what actually happens, but I will say that both Lada and Radu remain excellent protagonists, and it’s very interesting contrasting the way each of them thinks of Mehmed (about whom my own feelings are becoming correspondingly complicated).When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. A somewhat lacklustre romance between two Indian-American teenagers, one of whom feels that her family’s traditions are holding her back, while the other feels very connected to those same traditions. Also there was an app development convention, but it wasn’t as important to the story as it might have been… The book had both cute parts and interesting parts, but was mainly rather meh. 😕 You can find my review here.Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne. My September Library Scavenger Hunt pick; a classic adventure/exploration novel, wherein an eccentric geologist and his nephew embark on a trip to the centre of the Earth. This book was silly, but a whole lot of fun, and I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. Once again, I’ve got a review for this already posted.Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie. The second book in the Imperial Radch series, which follows the soldier Breq, who was once part of an enormous starship, but is now learning to live with one body instead of hundreds… There’s not much that I can say that will do this series (so far!) justice, but I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as I did Ancillary Justice… I did like the interactions between Breq and her new crew, and I also found the story very interesting, but I was surprised by how little it seemed to be connected to the events of the first book – and even now, I’m not entirely sure why Breq was sent to Athoek Station (I understand why she wanted to go there, but it wasn’t so clear why she was ordered to go there). Also, I would’ve liked to see more of Seivarden, who was absent for a lot of this book… That said, I still liked it a lot, and, to be honest, Ancillary Justice must have been an incredibly hard book to follow up. Hopefully I’ll have a more detailed review up soon. 😊

August Wrap-Up

Last month ended up being something of a reminder to me not to try to read too many books at the same time; I end up feeling like I’m not making any progress, even when I am, just because I end up going for such long stretches without finishing everything… All of the three books I read, I finished within the last week, and I’m still not even halfway through Now I Rise (which, you may recall, I put aside “momentarily” in order to concentrate on the Booktubeathon – which was a whole month ago)… 😓 But it’s quality over quantity, right? Here are the amazing books I read in August:

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. A fantastic novel about a fragment of a sentient starship who has been violently cut off from her main body, and is on a mission to expose the truth of how and why this happened to her. This is a very difficult book to sum up in any king of succinct manner, but since it was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for August, you can find my more detailed review of it here. Spoilers, though: I loved it, and can’t wait to read the sequel.

Warleggan by Winston Graham. The fourth book in the Poldark series, which follows the lives of Ross Poldark and his wife Demelza, along with their family and friends (and an enemy). Obviously I can’t say much about the plot without spoiling things, but for those of you following the (remarkably faithful) TV series, this book covers the second half of series two… And of course I’m still loving these books, with all their melodrama and misunderstandings. As has been the case with almost all the books so far, Demelza was the highlight of Warleggan, though I did also enjoy all of Caroline’s antics, and getting the chance to know her better; Ross’ character arc, on the other hand, has become increasingly frustrating, but I’m hoping that this book will have got us through the worst of his pig-headedness. (The ending seemed promising, at least.)

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. The third Harry Potter book, which I have been (mostly) reading along with the third season of the Harry Potter & the Sacred Text podcast. This is my favourite book in the series (and probably always will be), and re-reading it was a joy, especially with the extra food for thought that the podcast offered… It’s something of a shame that (unlike season two), this season didn’t coincide with the release of the Prisoner of Azkaban illustrated edition, but I guess that just means I’ll be due for another re-read in the very near future – and that’s hardly a chore! 😊

July Wrap-Up

Happy August, everyone! In a stunning turn of events, I wrote a full review for almost everything I read last month – which totals at six manga volumes, two graphic novels, one biography, and four novels – so instead of my usual summary-mini-review-link, I thought it might be time to try out a new format for my wrap-ups… Let me know what you think!😁

Ghost Hunt, Volumes 10-12 by Fuyumi Ono & Shiho Inada. The final three volumes in the Ghost Hunt series, which is based on the Akuryou series of novels by Fuyumi Ono… I decided to re-read these after re-watching the entire anime, as they were the only part of the storyline that sadly never got adapted… 😢 (And I will confess that as they’re also the only volumes I don’t own, I ended up reading fan-translations online – volume 12 never came out in English, and 10 & 11 were released around the time the publisher went out of business, and are therefore super-rare, so my hunt for decently-priced second-hand copies must go on). Of course, it was just as amazing as the first time I read it! Definitely one of my all-time favourite manga series!Ghost Hunt: The Nightmare Dwelling by Fuyumi Ono & Shiho Inada. The three-volume manga version of the sequel to the original Ghost HuntAkuryou series. I had no idea this even existed until I randomly decided to re-read the end of the original series, and accidentally clicked on Mangafox’s entry for this series instead. Naturally, I was overjoyed! The series is set a few months after Ghost Hunt‘s ending, and plot-wise, it wasn’t my favourite Ghost Hunt storyline (that prize goes to The Bloodstained Labyrinth), but it was still fantastic, and the art seems to be even better than in the old books… Plus, it was just really lovely to be spending more time with this wonderful set of characters… ☺️

  

  

Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis & Christos H. Papadimitriou. A biography in graphic novel form, which is partly the story of its own making, partly the life of Bertrand Russell, and partly a debate over the philosophical nature of logic (or something). The way this book was structured was very interesting, the art (by Alecos Papadatos) was excellent and evocative, and I really enjoyed the early chapters about Russell’s childhood, but as the book went on, every aspect of it became more and more concerned with the question of logic, and philosophical arguments that I either found so obvious that they were hardly worth saying, or else completely incomprehensible. This book would probably be of more interest to somebody who is more thoroughly versed in either philosophy or mathematics (or both, ideally), but I found that its stronger points were just not strong enough to make me care about the rest…

June Wrap-Up

I wasn’t particularly on top of my blogging game in June, but I did manage to read a few good books – three novels, one comic, and one essay – as well as tick off one more of my reading goals for the year (the one for reading books that people have given me)! 😁 Here’s what I read:

Bellamy & the Brute by Alicia Michaels. A retelling of Beauty & the Beast set in modern-day Georgia, and starring a teenage girl called Bellamy, who gets a summer job as a babysitter for the wealthy Baldwin family, and ends up getting involved with their eldest son Tate, who hasn’t been seen in public since being struck by a mysterious disfiguring illness… Conceptually, this was a really interesting book; it’s unlike any other Beauty & the Beast retelling I’ve read (and I’ve read quite a few of them), and the way that Michaels played around with the source material made for a really fresh, exciting story. It’s also very well written, and I liked the characters a lot (though – as many others have also mentioned – Bellamy did at times seem a little too perfect), as well as the way that Bellamy and Tate’s relationship progressed as the story went on. However, this story had two separate aspects to it (the love story, and the murder mystery), and the way that Michaels tried to tie them together just didn’t really work… the further I got into the story, the more contrived it felt… but it was still a really enjoyable book.Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. The tale of a girl called Karou who lives two lives; the first as a talented – though somewhat eccentric – art student in Prague; the second as an assistant to the chimera Brimstone, who trades wishes for teeth. I’d heard amazing things about this book, and I’m pleased to say that it absolutely lived up to my expectations! The characters were all wonderful, the writing beautiful, and the story fascinating… The romance does come across as a bit instalove-y, but Taylor managed to make it fit in with the story really well, and I’m super-interested in seeing where it goes in the next two books (which I will hopefully get to soon! 😆).Bee & Puppycat, Volume 1 by Natasha Allegri & Garrett Jackson. A really cute comic book spin-off of the Cartoon Hangover web-series of the same name, which follows a girl called Bee, who meets a strange cat-like creature and then becomes a trans-dimensional temp worker. I picked this up without knowing anything about the cartoon beforehand – which may have been a mistake – but still ended up enjoying the book more than not. I wrote a more complete review a couple of weeks ago, which you can find here if you so desire, but in short: Pretty and whimsical, but more style than substance (especially in the second half)…

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A 2012 TEDx Talk of the same name, now adapted into essay form – on feminism, and why it is important not just for women, but for everyone. This short book had a message that I really approved of, delivered in a very powerful, striking manner. It’s also very readable, despite being non-fiction (a genre I often find I have to slog through), and is littered with anecdotes from Adichie’s life that illustrate her views and helped to shape them. A must-read for anyone who’s at all interested in feminism, or in any form of movement towards equal rights.

Hurt by Tabitha Suzuma. A drama/mystery novel about a teenage diver who undergoes a horrible ordeal, and begins to fall apart as he tries to deal with the aftermath all by himself. Enjoyable isn’t really the right word to use to describe this book, but I did find it very interesting, and I felt that it did a good job of tackling a really difficult topic… This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so I’ve written a more detailed review of it already, which you can find here.