October & November Wrap-Up

Some more really great reads in the last couple of months (including what  might be a new favourite)! 😁 I was a little bit slumpy at the end of October/beginning of November, so there’s not a huge number of books here, but quality-wise, it’s been a really great autumn! 🍁🍁🍁

BOOKS I REVIEWED

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OTHER BOOKS I READ

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater.

A sequel/companion novel to the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, following Isabel and Cole as they attempt to put their lives back together, and sustain a relationship. I don’t remember the original trilogy super-well at this point (it’s been literally years, and I could definitely do with a re-read), but despite (or maybe because of) her general antagonism towards the protagonists, Isabel was always my favourite character. And happily, I still loved her in Sinner! Which is a good thing, as it’s a pretty character-driven book.

The story mainly revolves around Cole moving to LA in order to be closer to Isabel, and the chaos that follows him wherever he goes getting between them, which I might have found annoying if it’d been written by a less skilled writer (or about characters that I cared less for)… but as it is, Sinner was a pretty enjoyable ride; the romance was great, the conflicts realistic, and the characters compelling… and it was really lovely to be back in this world. 😊

Kulti by Mariana Zapata.

Successful soccer player Sal Casillas is astonished to find that her former idol Reiner Kulti is about to become her team’s new coach… and seems determined to be a complete dick to her. I loved this book so much (and must now devour every other book Mariana Zapata has written)! It’s a very slow-burn enemies-to-friends-to-lovers romance, with two great lead characters, and enough going on beyond the romance that I was never bored (which tends to be a problem for me with romances), even though it’s a pretty long book. 💕

Lusus Naturae by Alison Goodman. [SHORT STORY]

A quick story from the world of The Dark Days Club, which re-tells Lady Helen and Lord Carlston’s first meeting, but from Carlston’s perspective. I liked this; it was quick, and a little nostalgic, but Carlston’s thoughts and feelings upon meeting Helen weren’t anything unexpected, and I don’t feel like the story really added anything to the series.

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes.

The first book in the Falling Kingdoms series, which centres around three kingdoms on the brink of war, and the search for an ancient magic that will restore the continent’s dying land. Re-reading this wasn’t part of my reading plans for November, but I’m glad to have picked it up anyway; I kind of hate the storyline of this series, as well as the world and most of the characters, but somehow it’s weirdly addictive? Cleo and Magnus (who are two of the three primary characters), though not at their best in this book, are definite bright spots of the series, and it was fun to revisit their beginnings – even though my general opinion of this book hasn’t changed.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.

The two Owens sisters grow up under suspicion of witchcraft, and desperate to escape their hometown – but life away from their childhood home comes with unexpected challenges, and the more that they try to stay apart, the more that they find that they need each other.

I liked the almost dream-like writing in this, and found both Sally and Gillian (as well as Sally’s younger daughter Kylie) to be compelling leads, but wasn’t hugely invested in either the plot or the romances, unfortunately… The book seemed to wander kind of aimlessly through the sisters’ lives without coming to any real point until near the end, and all the love interests were introduced really suddenly, and neither they nor their relationships were ever really fleshed out much. I found myself wondering if this book is only so famous because the film (which I’ve heard is very different from the book) was very popular? Because I liked it, but didn’t think it was really anything special… And I probably won’t be revisiting this world for the sequel/prequels.

Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Grover Gardner; SHORT STORY COLLECTION]

A collection of three of Miles’ adventures, framed by an original story for this collection in which Miles recovers from bone-replacement surgery – an important episode in his life, even if the tale in itself isn’t the most gripping. The three short stories were all ones I’d read before, but I enjoyed revisiting them a lot, and bumped up my individual ratings for both The Borders of Infinity (which I was much more invested in this time around), and The Mountains of Mourning (which I honestly thought I’d given five stars already… but apparently not). Labyrinth is my least favourite of the bunch, but still an entertaining read (/listen).

Red at Night by Katie McGarry. [SHORT STORY]

A quick story from the Pushing the Limits universe, in which the popular Jonah begins to spend time at the graveyard after a traumatic accident, only to find that it’s “Trash Can Girl” Stella’s favourite spot. This was cute, and I liked both the main characters, but it was too short, and moved to quickly for me to really feel like I’d got to know either of them, or (consequently) for me to get invested in their future. My favourite scenes: their first graveyard-talk, and when Stella took Jonah to volunteer with her.

Eve of Man by Giovanna & Tom Fletcher.

In a dystopian near-future where the birth rate for girls has drastically declined, Eve – the last girl to be born – is humanity’s only hope for survival. No rating for this one; I DNFd it almost halfway through, because whoever came up with the plan to save humanity was clearly an idiot, and I was so frequently reminded of the fact that I was unable to enjoy any other part of the book. I’ve been informed (by a friend who did read the whole thing) that some of my issues with the plot are addressed in the second half, but regardless, I have no plans of picking this up again.

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Moira Quirk]

Beatrice plans to restore her family’s fortunes by summoning a greater spirit of luck and becoming an assistant to her father, while her family is banking on her making an advantageous marriage – which would mean sealing away her magic until widowhood. But when she meets Ianthe Lavan (handsome, charming, eligible, and – most astonishingly of all – understanding of her plight), her choice becomes that much more difficult.

This book was barely even on my radar this year, but I’m so glad that I decided to pick it up; if not an all-time favourite, it’s definitely one of my favourites of the year! 💕 I don’t want to say too much here, as I’m planning to write a full review soon, but my favourite thing about The Midnight Bargain was the gradual shift in so many of Beatrice’s relationships, from mercenary to respectful, then to genuinely affectionate. And there were so many wonderful characters (my favourite was Ysbeta, though)!

August & September Wrap-Up

Another wrap-up, and a whole month late! (Or two months, even, for some of these.) But in my defence, October was pretty crazy. 😓 However! August and September seem to have been some of my best reading months of the year – helped along by a long family holiday, then three concurrent readathons… So here’s what I read (featuring quite a few great rereads, and even a new – though unsurprising – favourite!):

BOOKS I REVIEWED

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OTHER BOOKS I READ

The Lady & the Fox by Kelly Link. [SHORT STORY; from My True Love Gave to Me]

A cute story about a girl who visits her extended family every Christmas, and a boy who’s under a curse, and can only visit her if it’s snowing. I don’t have much to say about it, but I liked it more than I do the average short story; naturally, it was too short for me to get fully invested, but the premise was interesting, I liked both the main characters, and I thought their romance was very sweet.

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten.

As the first Second Daughter born in generations, Red’s fate is to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wilderwood in hopes of persuading him to release her kingdom’s trapped gods… but neither the Wolf nor the Wood turn out to be quite what she expected, and while she’s slowly making a new life for herself, her older sister Neve will do anything to bring her home.

This was such a great book! I loved the world that Whitten created, and the romance between Red and Eammon was super-cute, and the story ended on a very tense note – so I’m relieved that I don’t have too long to wait until the sequel (next June)! The characters were all pretty great as well; I wish that some of the side characters had had a bit more devlopment, but can’t fault Whitten for wanting to focus more on Red, Eammon, and Neve – and I was pleased that the relationship between the sisters seemed to be just (/almost?) as much a focus of the novel as Red and Eammon’s romance. To be honest, Neve was probably my favourite character; her chapters were only sporadic, but she was so interesting! And from the title (For the Throne), I assume that there’ll be a lot more of her in the sequel! 😆 

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Lindsay Duncan]

The classic romance between Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Darcy, who are the very definition of mistaken first impressions. This is an old favourite of mine, and I’m sure I’ve read (and probably talked to you guys about it) a million times before, so I don’t have much to say here, but: Pretty much the perfect book, and Lindsay Duncan’s performance of the audiobook is absolutely wonderful. 💕

Ghostweight by Yoon Ha Lee. [SHORT STORY; from Conservation of Shadows]

A sci-fi short story about a girl and a ghost who steal a warship together in order to get revenge on the people who destroyed their world. I’m not generally a fan of short stories, but I loved this, and really wish it had been a full novel. The worldbuilding was really interesting, and I love the concept of people carrying ghosts within them (after which the story is named).

The Shadow Postulates by Yoon Ha Lee. [SHORT STORY; from Conservation of Shadows]

Another short story, about a student who’s struggling to complete a research project, for which she ambitiously chose to study a mathematical concept that’s baffled her predecessors for generations. I didn’t like this as much as Ghostweight (it’s very maths-y, and a little confusing), but I liked the characters a lot, and (once again) loved the world and concepts that Lee explores here.

Klara & the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Klara, an artificial friend, watches the people in the streets each day from her shop window, as she waits to be purchased – and then, afterwards, must adjust to a new role as companion to a sick child. This was an interesting book, and very well-written, but I ultimately found it a little disappointing. There was a lot of interesting worldbuilding going on in the background which never became part of the story; lots about the characters was never explained; the explanation of “lifted” children wasn’t as interesting as I had hoped; and the twist was kind of intriguing, but not as impactful as it might have been had Ishiguro actually followed through on it.

However! I really loved Klara’s perspective: her perceptiveness about people, contrasted with her misunderstanding of many simple concepts, eg. the Cootings machine, or “oblongs”. And her acceptance of her role as something to be of use, and then discarded, was also quite chilling, considering her very human-like feelings. My favourite part of the book was definitely the first, when Klara was in the shop with Manager and the other AFs, observing people through the window.

Point Blanc by Anthony Horowitz.

The second Alex Rider book, in which Alex is asked to go undercover at Point Blanc, an exclusive reform school for the children of the incredibly wealthy, to see if there’s any connection between the school and a couple of deaths of the parents of former students. This is my favourite in the series, and I decided to reread it after watching the Amazon series, which (loosely) adapts this book… And it was a little more rushed that I remembered, & its characters a little less fleshed out, but I still had a lot of fun with it. 😊

XOXO by Axie Oh.

A cute romance about a cellist who falls in love with a k-pop star without knowing who he is, and then meets him again when she temporarily transfers to an arts school in South Korea. I didn’t think that this book had the most realistic relationship development in the world, but to be honest I didn’t really care. The characters were wonderful, their relationship adorable, and I could really feel the love of music that went into this book. 🎶💕 Predictably, my favourite character was Sori; I’m a complete sucker for the popular-girl-who’s-never-had-a-real-friend trope… 😅

Vampire Knight, volume 2 & volume 3 by Matsuri Hino. [MANGA; Illustrated by the author]

Yuki is a Guardian at Cross Academy, charged with keeping the Day Class (made up of humans) and the Night Class (full of vampires) apart, and torn between her fellow Guardian Zero – a former vampire hunter whose whole family was slaughtered – and Kaname, the mysterious leader of the Night Class, who saved her life years ago.I don’t have all that much to say here: Volume 2 contains a lot of angst, as it details some of Zero’s backstory, and I loved the flashback scenes with a young Yuki in volume 3 (she’s the cutest 💕). These were both rereads (I need a refresher before I move on to some of the later volumes in the series), so while I’m enjoying getting to know the characters (again) at the moment, I’m looking forward to the story picking up a bit more in the next few volumes.

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan.

The second book in the Kane Chronicles, in which the Egyptian god of chaos Apophis threatens to destroy the world, and Carter and Sadie Kane have five days in which to stop him. This was a quick, fun read, but for some reason I’m just not as invested in Riordan’s Egyptian books as I have been in his Greek and Roman ones. I like Carter and Sadie, and new character Bes was a great addition to the story – but most of the other side-characters were pretty under-developed (even Walt, who had more page-time than the others). And it’s no secret that I generally dislike Riordan’s romances, but I think that Sadie’s love triangle might be one of the worst he’s written; it’s actually kind of creepy, given that she’s twelve/just thirteen, and her two love interests are 16 and older-than-time… 😓

The Rift Walker by Clay & Susan Griffith.

The sequel to The Greyfriar, wherein Gareth and Adele try to prevent an all-out war between humans and vampires, while Adele’s heroic husband-to-be hatches a plan to instead win the war, but at the cost of the entire human population of the North… Like its predecessor, The Rift Walker was a bit slow to get started, but I really enjoyed it once it did. ☺️ And I wish that there had been more scenes where Gareth and Adele got to spend time alone together (unsurprisingly, since I’m kind of living for their romance), but the scenes we did get were some of my favourites of the whole series!

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Lauren Fortgang]

The final book in the Nikolai duology, in which Ravka faces the double threat of a looming war with Fjerda, and a blight on its lands which is reminiscent of the Fold that still haunts its people. King of Scars felt like it was mostly build-up, and that definitely paid off here! I was still more invested in Nina’s plotline than in Zoya or Nikolai’s (and likewise more invested in her new romance), but I was very pleased with how all the branches of the story came together in this book, and I absolutely loved the ending! 😆 So satisfying!

Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrated by the author]

A strange tale about an author who’s writing the biography of the personification of death. I had very mixed feelings about this one: It yo-yos between poignant and gross, with a lyrical writing style that I loved, and some really interesting historical references (I got sucked down quite a few wikipedia rabbit holes while listening to this). So parts of it I liked a lot, but other parts of it I really, really disliked. 😓 On the whole I would say that I respect this book a lot though. The narration was also great, but very, very slow – presumably for dramatic effect? But I could never have listened to it at normal speed, even though in general I hate speeding up audiobooks even a tiny bit.

Nightwing: A Darker Shade of Justice by Chuck Dixon. [COMIC; Illustrators: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story & Roberta Tewes]

The fourth volume of Nightwing, in which Blüdhaven is overrun by refugees from the disaster-torn Gotham, and Dick heads back to Gotham to help out. This is definitely my favourite volume so far, with no real low points! Dick had a really great team-up with Superman near the beginning, and the Blackgate arc (though I’d read it before, as part of the Batman: No Man’s Land collection) was a little fleshed out here, with a whole extra issue where Dick hallucinates an encounter with Robin, and a short arc afterwards where he recovers from his ordeal under Oracle’s care. In general, this volume was more character-driven than action-driven, which very much worked for me. 😊👍

July Wrap-Up!

Another great reading month! Including three 5-star books, and a couple more that came close! 😆 I also managed to accidentally take part in Jane Austen July, which I didn’t realise was a thing until it was nearly over, even though I’d been reading (or else wanting to read) Jane Austen-related things  all month… 😅

BOOKS I READ

The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Vorkosigan Saga story following Miles as he graduates from the Barrayar Military Academy, and is given a very undesirable first assignment as meteorological officer at a frozen base in the middle of nowhere… and promptly gets on the bad side of his new commanding officer. This was a somewhat spontaneous re-read, and I’m pleased to report that I loved the first half of the book (previously published as the novella Weatherman) just as much as I did the first time… but to my surprise, I also had a lot more appreciation for the second half this time around! I remember finding the change in tone, setting, and storyline very jarring (perhaps because I was finding the politics confusing?), and while it certainly still feels very different from Weatherman, I was able to follow along a lot more easily, and really enjoyed the insight we get into Gregor’s character here, as well as Miles’ reunion with Elena, and his battle of wits with Cavilo! 😊

Secret Weapon by Anthony Horowitz. [SHORT STORY COLLECTION]

A collection of seven short stories from the Alex Rider universe, of which my favourites were probably Alex in Afghanistan (in which Alex sneaks into a terrorist base to find evidence of a nuclear weapon) and Spy Trap (an unusually-formatted story about Alex waking up in hospital and trying to piece together the events that brought him there). I tend to prefer the longer stories in this series, as the set-up (plus gadget descriptions) and re-caps don’t take up so much of them (percentage-wise), leaving more room for character development and interactions, so it’s not surprising that I wasn’t blown away by this collection… It was certainly enjoyable (and definitely worth reading if you’re a big fan of the series), but nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary except for the somewhat experimental framework of Spy Trap.

Longbourn by Jo Baker.

A re-telling of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the Longbourn servants, who see everything that’s going on in the Bennet family, but are decidedly more concerned by the everyday matters of getting the washing done and the fires lit, and impressing Mr. Collins so that he won’t dismiss them all when he inherits… This was pretty much the perfect complement to Pride and Prejudice (and I say that as someone who has very fixed ideas about P&P and is incredibly picky about spin-offs), but my more detailed thoughts on it were starting to get quite lengthy, so I’ll be saving them for a proper review soon. 😅 Keep your eyes peeled!

Reputation by Lex Croucher.

Abandoned in London with her incredibly dull aunt and uncle, Georgiana Ellers counts herself lucky to have caught the eye of the anything-but-dull Miss Frances Campbell – but as she gets sucked into Frances’ world of parties and boys and far too much drink, she begins to realise that her reputation isn’t the only thing at stake.

This book was so much fun! Hilarious, but with plenty of serious (and relevant to the present day) social commentary. The setting was closer to something like Netfilx’s Bridgerton (in terms of the characters’ behaviour and dialogue, and so on) than how I imagine the actual Regency would have been (not that I’m an expert), but not so much so that I found it distracting… and really, the story was so engaging that I didn’t much care anyway. The characters were all wonderful; they felt very real, and I was super-invested in all of them! And the romance was perhaps a little bit rushed, but so cute! (I loved the flirty letters! 💕)

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick.

An exploration of an alternative America which has been occupied by Japan after the victory of the Axis powers in World War II… which I found much less interesting than its premise would appear to promise. But there wasn’t much of a coherent plot here; it read more like a day-in-the-life, with too many characters for me to really get invested in any of them. I found myself unfavourably comparing this to 1984 a lot, and I didn’t even really like 1984 that much (though at least it was more interesting than this), so I can only conclude that maybe I just don’t mesh with classic dystopian stories? 😓

Persuasion by Jane Austen.

Persuaded as a young woman to break off her engagement to a man whom she loved, but with very uncertain prospects, Anne Elliot is alarmed to hear that Captain Wentworth – now having made his fortune in the war – will be entering her small circle of society once again. But although Anne’s feelings haven’t changed, it’s impossible that Captain Wentworth might still love her…

My last unread Jane Austen novel! This certainly had some lofty expectations to live up to, and I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint! 😊 It’s a lot sadder than Austen’s other novels; it still had its fair share of witty dialogue and ridiculous characters, but it is much less about the comedy of life than about hope and regret, and even depression (depending on your interpretation of Anne, I suppose). As a heroine, I liked Anne a great deal, and very much felt for her. Captain Wentworth I was a little less impressed with, but his actions are understandable though often ungallant… and his letter-writing skills are second to none!

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

When a local man is found dead, suspicion immediately falls on Kya the “Marsh Girl”, who lives alone with the marsh and its creatures, and is misunderstood and mistrusted by the entire town. Part murder mystery, and part coming-of-age story, Where the Crawdads Sing was both beautifully written and incredibly frustrating in the best possible way. I loved Kya’s character, and it was really hard to follow the investigation knowing how severely public opinion was against her… and in the parts of the story that were set in the years before the murder, I enjoyed learning about Kya’s childhood and her relationships, and how she learnt to survive by herself. I also really appreciated Owens’ descriptions of the marsh, and of Kya’s studies of it, which were written with a lot of care and attention; it’s easy to see that Owens is a naturalist herself!

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow.

A retelling and continuation of Pride and Prejudice, following Mary Bennet as she grows up as the least thought-of of her sisters, and tries to find herself and her place in the world. I thought that this was an enjoyable enough story in its own right, but much too long; I found the first (of five) section interesting, and really enjoyed the final two, but the middle of the book dragged quite a bit… Additionally, I found that Hadlow had a very different interpretation of many of the characters to my own, so many of them felt off to me. In particular, her reading of Charlotte was very harsh, but I also felt like a lot of Lizzy and Darcy’s character development in Pride and Prejudice was ignored here, and even Mary – though I can certainly imagine her growing into the woman she’s portrayed as here – is very different from how Jane Austen wrote her…

Thin Air by Michelle Paver.

Stephen Pearce is brought in as a last-minute replacement medic on his brother’s expedition to climb Kangchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain. But Kangchenjunga is a merciless killer, and as Stephen and Kits follow their hero’s route up the mountain, Stephen begins to wonder if their team will suffer the same fate. This was a little slow, and less spooky than I was hoping, but it was wonderfully atmospheric, and I liked the main character and was intrigued by the mystery of the Lyell expedition. Cedric was very cute, too, and I always appreciate a Good Dog! 🐶

 

May & June Wrap-Up

I’ve been lax in my reviewing lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done plenty of reading! 😉 In fact, the last couple of months have been really great for me, in terms of both quantity and quality; I’ve read several really exciting new purchases, a few that I’ve been meaning to get to for years (that were definitely worth the wait), and may even have discovered a couple of new favourites!

BOOKS I REVIEWED WILL REVIEW SOON!

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW TO COME]

OTHER BOOKS I READ

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Tuppence Middleton]

Feeling oppressed by her mother’s strict rules, Makepeace longs to find her father, but when a traumatic event ends in her being sent to live with his relatives in an old house, full of ghosts, she begins to realise that escape may be her only chance of survival.

This was a really great book, but the best thing about it by far was Makepeace, who made for an excellent protagonist; her character was really distinct and sympathetic, and despite being twelve, she made really great decisions almost the whole way through the novel (which I feel is something of a rarity in YA fantasy). The side characters were also all really interesting and well-developed; James, who was probably the most important of them, was occasionally irritating, but I appreciated that he always got called out when he was being a prat… The plot was probably the weakest part of the book, with no real goal beyond “get out”, then “survive”, then “keep surviving”, but somehow it worked even though the storyline sometimes felt a bit meandering.

Skysteppers by Katherine Rundell. [NOVELLA]

A World Book Day novella that serves as a prequel to Rooftoppers, following Matteo as he begins to make a life for himself on the rooftops, and a treasure hunt across France! My expectations for this weren’t super-high, but I actually ended up liking it a bit more than Rooftoppers! It’s not quite so self-consciously quirky, which I appreciated, and the treasure hunt made for a fun adventure. Matteo was a great lead, too (he was my favourite character in the main story), and his friendship with Mercedes (who’s kind of his rooftop-mentor) was really cute. 😊

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert.

Years after the events of Dune, Paul Atreides now rules as Emperor, but the holy war that brought him to power is one that he’s powerless to stop – and it’s also brought him a great many new enemies. There was a big shift in tone between this book and Dune, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it… On the one hand, I enjoyed the politics of Dune Messiah, and the character exploration as Paul struggles to avoid the worst consequences of the plot against him; on the other hand, it was a lot shorter, and less epic-feeling than Dune was, and there were a lot of uncomfortable sexual dynamics that I didn’t appreciate (particularly in regards to Paul’s sister Alia)… And it also ended on a slightly odd note; I’m not entirely sure where this series will (or even can) go next, but I will at least be picking up book 3 at some point, since I already own it…

Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz.

After receiving a strange email, Alex becomes convinced that his best friend and guardian Jack is still alive, and hatches a plan to rescue here – with or without the help of MI6. This wasn’t my favourite from this series, but it was a solid new entry, and a lot of fun once it got going! I found the characterisation (especially of the villains) quite shallow, but to be honest I’ve come to expect that from these books, and given the heavy James Bond influence, it’s not all that surprising. Highlights included: The return of Wolf! And I also enjoyed the more familial dynamic between Alex and Sabina at the beginning of the book.

Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun. [COMIC; Illustrated by the author.]

A short, introspective comic about an alien who’s sent to Earth to observe humans. Very cute artwork, with a powerful message; definitely a bit of a tear-jerker! And there was a little twist right at the end that I really enjoyed, too. 😊 But otherwise, I don’t have too much to say about this one. My favourite panels/episodes were Jomny’s encounters with the tree, and with Nothing (and with the dog! 💕).

Nightwing: Love and Bullets by Chuck Dixon. [COMIC; Illustrators: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story & Roberta Tewes]

The third volume in the Nightwing series, in which Dick Grayson tries to become for Blüdhaven what Batman is for Gotham… with limited success. I haven’t been finding this series hugely memorable on the whole, but it definitely has its moments! In this volume, I really enjoyed Dick’s training session with Tim (the new Robin), and his encounter with Huntress was also interesting.

Vampire Knight, volume 1 by Matsuri Hino. [MANGA; Illustrated by the author.]

Yuki Cross is a student Guardian at the exclusive Cross Academy; her main duty to ensure the separation of the Day class, full of ordinary students, and the Night class, made up of vampires. This was a re-read for me, as I recently purchased some of the later volumes in the series, but definitely need a refresher! 😅 This volume is pretty intriguing, though not as compelling as later ones… but to be honest this rating is more for my impression of the whole series (so far), as each volume is so short that it’s difficult to rate them individually…

Millenneagram by Hannah Paasch.

An exploration of enneagram personality types. This was both interesting and accessible, with very colloquial writing, which made for easy reading, even for someone like me who doesn’t usually get on with non-fiction! I’m not generally a fan of self-help books, but I loved the tone of this, and its colourful formatting, and I’ve been really enjoying categorising my favourite fictional characters since getting a better idea of what each number is supposed to represent. 😁 The best thing about this book by far, though, was the between-chapter pages, which described the way each enneagram type would react to a specific situation (e.g. stuck in traffic); they were hilarious, and I really wish there had been more of them.

Heartstopper, volume 4 by Alice Oseman. [COMIC; Illustrated by the author.]

The fourth entry in the Heartstopper series, which follows Nick and Charlie as they fall in love and learn to navigate a relationship. In this volume, they go to the beach with their friends, are separated over the summer holidays, and agonise over the best way to say “I love you”. As always, this was incredibly cute, but with a little touch of bittersweet to stop it from completely rotting my teeth. 😬 I didn’t like this one quite as much as volume 3 (which was angstier), but it was still solid, and I’m looking forward to volume 5 (which I think might be the last?)!

Black Powder War by Naomi Novik.

Waylaid by an urgent assignment just as they were about to head home from China, Captain Laurence, Temeraire, and their crew must instead set off to Istanbul to collect three dragon eggs on the verge of hatching. I was a little nervous about picking this up, as it’s been so long since I last read anything from this series (and I have almost no memory of the last book), but I was actually able to get back into the swing of things very quickly! 😊 The story was gripping the whole way through, the recurring characters felt like old friends (or enemies!), and some of the new characters introduced here are well on their way to becoming favourites! Tharkay was definitely the highlight of this book, and I loved how Laurence’s attitude towards him changed over the course of the story. 💕 Now I can only hope it won’t be another eight years before I read Empire of Ivory… 😓

Red Noise by John P. Murphy.

A miner stops at a remote space station to re-fuel and sell her cargo, but ends up getting pulled into a vicious turf war between two local gangs. No rating for this one, as I DNFd it about a third of the way through (around 150 pages in), not because I thought it was terrible, it just really wasn’t for me. The writing was a little impersonal, but the plot (so far) was fast-paced and action-driven… so if those last two sound appealing to you, and the first isn’t a problem, maybe give this a try?

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White.

Frankenstein re-told from the perspective of Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor Frankenstein’s beloved childhood friend, and later his wife. Knowing her position in the Frankenstein family is precarious, Elizabeth does her best to manage Victor’s whims, and make herself indispensable, but at what cost?

I was quite enjoying the dark/obsessive romance of this book through the first two parts, but was sorely disappointed by the final part, which broke from canon for a very unsubtle and uninteresting twist – and seemed determined to cast Victor as a villain as if man-is-the-real-monster wasn’t already a key theme in the original novel…? Though admittedly, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein was much more blatant about it.

Nightshade by Anthony Horowitz.

The final (that we know of!) entry in the Alex Rider series, in which Alex is brought back into MI6 in order to befriend – and extract information from – a teenage assassin, whose organisation is planning a devastating attack on London. Nightshade took an absurdly long time to get started (apart from a brief prologue, Alex didn’t appear until page 81), but it was a lot of fun after that. I’ve noticed that I tend to most enjoy the books where Alex interacts with people his own age, and this one was no exception to that rule; the friendship between him and Freddy was really nice to read about, despite its dishonest beginning, and I really hope that if Horowitz decides to write more Alex Rider books, he’ll be bringing Freddy back, too! 🤞

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.

Notorious thief Kaz Brekker and his crew are hired to break into the apparently-impenetrable Ice Court to rescue a valuable prisoner. I’ve re-read this a couple of times now, and don’t really have anything new to say about it from this time around… I wasn’t feeling it quite so much this time as I have in previous read-throughs, but I love the story and characters as much as ever, and it’s definitely still one of my favourite books. 😊

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse.

As the holy city of Tova gears up for the winter solstice celebration, Sun Priest Naranpa faces threats from both inside and outside her order – but unbeknownst to her, an even greater threat is drawing closer: Serapio, the crow god reborn, who must reach Tova by the solstice if his destiny is to be fulfilled.

This was such and epic story! I was initially hesitant to give it 5 stars, as it’s almost entirely build-up, and we still won’t know until the sequel is out what the true outcome of all that build-up is going to be… but I enjoyed myself so much with this book. 😍 All the POV characters were incredible, and having likeable and sympathetic characters on both sides of the main conflict made the story super-tense… My favourite perspective was probably Naranpa’s, but they were all really interesting, and I can’t wait to see where the story will go next! I know the sequel’s not out until next April, but I need it like I haven’t needed a book in a long time… 😭

April Wrap-Up

Another great reading month – though admittedly I was beginning to feel a bit slumpy towards the end of it… 😓 My favourites from this batch were probably Walk the Edge (my first read of the month!) and the short story The Rule of Names. 😊 Also, I’m on Instagram now! Find me @nightjarreads (if you’re so inclined)!

BOOKS I READ

Walk the Edge by Katie McGarry.

The second book in the Thunder Road trilogy, following Razor as he questions his place in the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, and begins to fear that the club may have had something to do with his mother’s death, and Breanna, who wants nothing more than to escape this town and her huge, overbearing family, but finds her path to freedom threatened by a blackmailer…

I wasn’t super-happy with how this book ended; I feel like it sacrificed what seemed to me to be the natural conclusions of both Razor and Breanna’s character arcs in favour of a happy resolution to their romantic arc… However! I loved both characters so much, and was so incredibly invested in the plot and the romance that I can’t bring myself to mind too much (though in the moment I was quite cross). 😅 Super-intense, and definitely my favourite book from this series.

Long Way Home by Katie McGarry.

The third and final Thunder Road novel, which follows Chevy and Violet. Violet is trying to distance herself from the Reign of Terror after her father’s death, and Chevy, as the grandson of the club’s founder, is torn between his loyalty to his family, and his love for Violet.

This was kind of the anti-Walk the Edge, in that I really appreciated the ending, but wasn’t all that invested in the plot (despite its incredibly high stakes) or the romance. I did like Violet a lot, but less than I was expecting to after her appearances in the previous books… and Chevy, though sweet, wasn’t all that interesting a character. Highlights of the book included: the brief appearance of Isaiah and Rachel (from McGarry’s Pushing the Limits series), and Chevy’s mum, who was the best character in the book.

The Rule of Names by Ursula K. Le Guin. [SHORT STORY]

A quick story about a mildly-inept wizard living in a remote island community, who’s challenged by a stranger who’s convinced that he’s more than he seems. This was such a clever story! I left off thinking it was nice-but-a-bit-confusing, but the more I think back on it, the more I appreciate it, and now I’m thinking it might be one of my favourite Earthsea shorts – which is an impressive feat for something that’s less than 10 pages long! 😍

The Daughter of Odren by Ursula K. Le Guin. [SHORT STORY]

Another Earthsea short story, in which a young woman called Weed takes years planning her revenge on her mother’s lover – and her father’s murderer – only for her plan to be threatened just before she’s ready to enact it, by the return of her brother, who has a different target in mind for his vengeance. This was excellently written (as Le Guin’s stories always are), but I didn’t feel much of a connection to the characters, and so I didn’t find myself caring much about the story either…

Firelight by Ursula K. Le Guin. [SHORT STORY]

The final story in the Earthsea Cycle, in which Tenar and Ged live together for Ged’s final days. Not much happens here, so I don’t have much to say, but it was incredibly bittersweet, and a great epilogue to both of their stories… 😥

Earthsea Revisioned by Ursula K. Le Guin. [ESSAY]

An essay dealing with the significant shift in tone between The Farthest Shore and Tehanu. A very interesting read! In particular, I found Le Guin’s discussion of the etymology of “virtue” poignant, and not something I’d ever thought about before (though it seems obvious now that it’s been spelled out to me) – but a lot of other fascinating tidbits came up throughout the essay, too. I’m not usually a one for non-fiction, but the change in Le Guin’s writing in Tehanu was incredibly noticeable, and I’m glad to have learnt more about what caused it.

Batman: No Man’s Land, volume 3 by Ian Edginton, Janet Harvey, Larry Hama, Chuck Dixon, Dennis J. O’Neil, Bronwyn Carlton Taggart, Steven Barnes, Devin Grayson & Alisa Kwitney. [COMIC; Illustrators: Jason Miller, Sal Buscema, Sergio Cariello, Mark Ryan, Mike Deodato Jr., Sean Parsons, Staz Johnson, Wayne Faucher, Gordon Purcell, Roger Robinson, James D. Pascoe, Paul Gulacy, Randy Emberlin, David A. Roach, Tom W. Morgan, Paul C. Ryan, Andy Lanning, Mat Broome, Rafael Kayanan, Mark McKenna, Dale Eaglesham, John Floyd, Michael Zulli & Vince Locke]

The third entry in the No Man’s Land storyline, which I liked better than the second, but not as much as the first… Best bits: Batman’s team-up with Lynx; a two-issue episode where Harley Quinn uses a dating advice book to get the Joker to appreciate her more; and Penguin getting a little more character depth in the Hardback story. The rest of the book was fine, but nothing spectacular – though I liked Azrael’s part in this volume more than in previous ones.

Shadow’s Edge by Brent Weeks.

The sequel to The Way of Shadows, in which Kylar attempts to give up his life as a wetboy in order to settle down and make an honest living with Elene. I thought that this was better than the first book, or at least more consistently good the whole way through… I enjoyed Vi’s character being fleshed out (and I have to admit that I kind of ship her and Kylar even though it’s a little eye-rolly that everyone keeps falling for him). The Elene chapters I enjoyed less, except for the final one, where it seems like she might finally be getting some growth. And as for Kylar… well, he makes a lot of frustrating decisions, but at least that’s an improvement on his refusal to make any decisions at all in the first book… 😓 For the record, I’m still looking forward to continuing this series.

Birdy by Jess Vallance.

A YA thriller following a loner called Frances reluctantly agrees to show around the new girl at school, not anticipating the intensity of the friendship they’ll form with one another. I won’t say too much about this here, as I’m hoping to have a review posted soon, but on the whole I found it underwhelming… It was pretty well-written, and Vallance did a great job of capturing the atmosphere of an English secondary school (which I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be revisiting 😅), but the plot was kind of predictable, and its twists just not very twisty…

Nightwing: Rough Justice by Chuck Dixon. [COMIC; Illustrators: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story & Roberta Tewes]

The second collection of the 1996-2009 run of Nightwing, in which Dick continues to try to do some good on the streets of Blüdhaven, hindered this time by the dramatic appearance of a frenzied Man-Bat, followed by the bounty hunter Deathstrike – and helped by Batman, who’s in town to check up on his adoptive son, whether Dick likes it or not. Another fun, quick read. 😊 I don’t find the Blockbuster storyline particularly interesting (which is a shame, since it seems like that’s going to be a big focus in this series), but I liked the Batman team-up in this volume, as well as the brief Man-Bat episode… I’m also intrigued by what we’ve seen so far of Tad’s story, and I’m looking forward to seeing what that’s building up to.

March Wrap-Up

Happy Easter!!! 🐇🥚🐣 I wish you all as much chocolate as you can eat! 😁 March, as it turns out, was the best reading month I’ve had in years; I read fourteen books! Fourteen!! 😱 And, for the most part, they were all really good ones! The highlight of the month was, of course, my re-read of Komarr, but in general I was really motivated to read this month, and really enjoying everything I picked up. 😊

BOOKS I REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I READ

The Rift by Gene Luen Yang. [COMIC; Illustrated by Gurihiru]

The third of the Avatar: The Last Airbender continuations, in which the Aang takes the Air Acolytes to celebrate an old Air Nomad festival, only to find that a refinery has been built on top of his people’s sacred land. This story didn’t click with me quite so well as The Promise or The Search, but I still enjoyed it a lot. The main highlight for me was Toph’s role; her friendship with the refinery’s manager, and reconnecting with her father… and although I wouldn’t exactly say I liked reading about her fight with Aang, I liked how it was resolved.

Lothaire by Kresley Cole.

An entry in the Immortals After Dark series (which I am absolutely not reading in order), following the Enemy-of-Old Lothaire, who finds his soulmate possessing a human girl, and endeavours to find a way to give her permanent control over Ellie’s body… but although the goddess of death seems like a perfect match for Lothaire on paper, it’s squishy-human Ellie that he finds himself drawn to.

This romance has a lot of problematic elements, but I appreciate that the narrative didn’t try to gloss over them; Cole did a great job of fleshing out Lothaire’s character in a way that made him a sympathetic romantic lead without making excuses for his (extreme and unrepentant) villainy. And Ellie was such a great match for him; I loved her determination to be a thorn in his side, and the way her feelings for him gradually changed as the book went on… And I also really appreciated that (disregarding the epilogue, which was set years later) their story didn’t leave off with all loose ends tied up and everything forgiven, as this book wasn’t nearly long enough for them to believably work through all their problems.

I still have no desire to read this series in its entirety, but I’d definitely be interested in picking up more of the Dacians books (a subset of Immortals After Dark that follow Lothaire’s Dacian cousins).

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold.

The first book in the Vorkosigan Saga, in which Commander Cordelia Naismith of the Betan Survey Corps is taken prisoner by Captain Aral Vorkosigan of Barrayar, whose fearsome reputation is belied by his behaviour towards her. This was a re-read for me, and I think I liked it even more the second time than I did the first! It’s a short book, but the world and characters are fleshed out brilliantly, and the romance develops slowly and believably. My favourite part is the final (maybe-)third of the story, where Cordelia returns to Beta Colony, only to find herself changed by her experiences, along with her family and friends’ reactions to her new self… it’s honestly quite chilling at times…

The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrators: Lauren Fortgang & James Patrick Cronin]

Lara is sent to the Bridge Kingdom by her father to become its queen, and its downfall, but finds that King Aren is far from the brute she’s been told to expect, and his apparent stranglehold over trade to her impoverished homeland may not be quite what it seems. This was such a fun book! The worldbuilding was a little incomprehensible and the story a little, but I really enjoyed the characters, their hate-to-love romance, and the melodramatic storytelling – I’ll definitely be continuing as soon as my reading schedule allows! (In no small part thanks to that huge cliffhanger! It’s looking like The Traitor Queen might be a lot less predictable than this one.) 😁

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

The diary of a Japanese teenager washes up on a beach on the remote island where Ruth and her husband live, and Ruth finds herself consumed by the mystery of what’s happed to Nao. I found this more interesting than enjoyable, as the story was a very heavy one, dealing with suicide and really severe bullying… I thought the ending was a little unsatisfactory, though, and I also didn’t much appreciate the magical realism-y aspects in the last few chapters, nor the theoretical physics explanations, which made my eyes glaze over and were a huge departure in tone from the rest of the novel. However! As I said, it was very interesting, and I was invested in both Nao and Ruth’s storylines the vast majority of the time. No regrets for finally having read this. 👍

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson.

Joel is fascinated by Rithmatics, and with an unusual talent for maths, he seems like he’d make the perfect candidate – but he missed his chance to become a Rithmatist a long time ago, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to try again… But when students at his school start disappearing, leaving behind nothing but strange chalk marks, Joel’s theoretical knowledge may be just what’s needed to help solve the case!

I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed this, as I thought the concept was one of Sanderson’s less interesting ones, but I’m very pleased to have been mistaken! 😁 The chalk-based magic system actually ended up being my favourite thing about this book, and I loved the technical illustrations that were added in between chapters. The two main characters – Joel and his friend Melody – were also really great; I found Melody a little irritating at first, but she really grew on me as the book went on, and I liked how their friendship developed, given their very different personalities and priorities… The plot, too was pretty solid, though I thought that the identity of the villain was kind of out of nowhere, and there was a little twist right at the end of the book that I didn’t appreciate… but I’ll reserve final judgement on the plot for when (/if) the sequel is released.

A Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe.

With her parents determined to marry her off to the rich but odious Mr. Van Peet, Christina flees to her neighbour Oliver, a reclusive inventor whom she accidentally befriended on a walk through his garden. Feeling for her plight, Oliver agrees to marry her with the stipulation that they will divorce a year later, so she’ll be able to make a better life for herself… but as they grow closer, both Oliver and Christina begin to realise that what they really want is each other. This was a pretty cheesy story, but very cute. Both the main characters were very endearing, and I loved their interactions the whole way through – but in particular, Oliver’s surprise at Christina’s interest in his inventions, and in learning sign language (Oliver is deaf) were really touching. My main criticism is that most of the conflict in this story seems very contrived; there are a lot of villains, and they all come across as comically evil, and then go away very quickly.

The River Whale by Sita Brahmachari. [NOVELLA; Illustrated by Poonam Mistry]

Immy loves to dive, and dreams of being a marine biologist, but her big diving test has to be cancelled when a whale gets lost in the Thames, and Immy’s instructor is called on to set it free. I don’t have much to say about this one, except that it was a sweet but simple story, written in a dream-like combination of poetry and prose, and beautifully illustrated. A very atmospheric read.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal.

Zafira has a unique ability to find her way, and so has been hunting alone in the dangerous magical forest of the Arz since her father’s death, and has gained a good deal of notoriety as the Hunter. Nasir is a prince, but has been trained as an assassin his whole life, and now serves his cruel father without question. Both are sent on a quest to recover an artefact that could restore magic to their dying homeland, but although they need each other’s help to complete this quest, their goals are very different.

I liked the main characters and the story well enough, but there was a lot of wasted potential. I feel like the story would’ve been much more interesting (and character and relationship development much more compelling) if Zafira and Nasir (and perhaps Altair) hadn’t had so many random companions along for the ride. Deen’s presence in particular seemed incredibly pointless, but more characters are introduced later in the book with little purpose beyond exposition – if that, even. There were also a few dramatic reveals towards the end that were rather predictable, and I also thought it was a shame that, although the Arz kept being spoken of as this incredibly dangerous and mysterious place, we barely saw it… I was under the impression early on that Zafira was going to have to find her way all the way to the far side of the forest, but when we got to that part of the story, it was just skipped over… 😑 I’m interested enough in these characters (and to a lesser extent the story) to continue, however; I just hope that Zafira and Nasir’s relationship is fleshed out more in the sequel.

Alex Rider Undercover by Anthony Horowitz. [SHORT STORY COLLECTION]

A collection of four short stories in the Alex Rider universe, mostly featuring Yassen Gregorovich, the series’ recurring villain. In The Man with the Wrong Shoes, Alex foils an assassination attempt at his school; in Double Agent, Ash’s loyalties are tested; in Metal Head, Yassen comes sniper-scope-to-face with the man who made his childhood a misery; and in The White Carnation, a client comes to Yassen with an unusual request. Overall, this was a pretty solid batch of stories; Metal Head was the strongest (and, unsurprisingly, the longest) of the bunch, and The White Carnation was probably the weakest, but I enjoyed them all, and my desire to catch up on this series has definitely been re-kindled. 😊

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks.

Street-rat Azoth is determined to escape from his life of drudgery, and his method of choice is to convince Durzo Blint – the city’s most dangerous assassin – to take him on as an apprentice. But becoming an assassin will mean turning his back on everything in his old life, even the friends who helped him get here. I really liked the beginning of this story, and the end of it, but the middle was very confusing, with the storyline jumping all over the place, and a lot of sudden character- and relationship-developments for no apparent reason… It kind of came together in the end (and I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel), but I feel like everything would’ve been a lot smoother if Weeks had either spent more time on the Azoth-growing-up chapters, or else just had one clean time-skip in the middle rather than a hundred tiny ones…
3 stars

[EDIT (13/4/2021): Changed rating of The Way of Shadows from 4 stars to 3, after further consideration.]

January & February Wrap-Up

This year’s got off to a great start! 😁 Helped along by a readathon that lasted most of January, I managed to get through 8 novels, 5 short stories, 3 comics and 2 audiobooks in the last couple of months, which is well above my average – and most of these were pretty great reads, too!

BOOKS I REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I READ

The Runaway Queen by Cassandra Clare & Maureen Johnson. [SHORT STORY]

Set during the French Revolution, Manus Bane is drawn into a plot to rescue the Queen of France by a promise of company from a very attractive royalist. I liked this better than the first Bane Chronicles story, and it dragged a lot less, but – once again – I don’t find that Magnus’ quirky adventures are really enough to hold my attention without any significant character development – which, to be honest, I figured was supposed to be the main point of this collection… There was a memorable hot air balloon scene, though, and I found Magnus’ interactions with the vampires mildly interesting.

Batman: No Man’s Land, volume 1 by Bob Gale, Dennis J. O’Neil, Devin Grayson, Ian Edginton, Greg Rucka, Scott Beatty, Lisa Klink & Kelley Puckett. [COMIC; Illustrators: Alex Maleev, Wayne Faucher, Roger Robinson, James D. Pascoe, Dale Eaglesham, Matt Banning, Sean Parsons, Jaime Mendoza, D’Israeli, Frank Teran, Jason Pearson, Cam Smith, Damion Scott, Chris Renaud, Sal Buscema, James A. Hodgkins, Guy Davis, Jon Bogdanove, Eduardo Barreto & Phil Winslade]

With Gotham isolated from the rest of the US after a series of disasters, gangs rule the streets, and Batman and his allies are caught in a seemingly endless fight to keep Gotham’s citizen’s safe. This comic was a re-read for me, and a pleasantly surprising one! I’d been considering giving this series up after struggling with volume 2, and then spending several years about a chapter into volume 3, but decided to give it another go… and this volume, at least, tells me I made a good decision. In particular, I really liked Two Down, a story about Detective Montoya near the beginning of the lock-down; as well as Home Sweet Home, an incredibly touching, Up-esque tale about an elderly Gothamite trying to protect his home and help out the kids in his neighbourhood. Less interesting were the Azrael sections of the story, but on the whole they didn’t take up too much of the book.

Vampires, Scones, & Edmund Herondale by Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan. [SHORT STORY]

Magnus attends a meeting at the London Institute about a proposed treaty with the Downworld, and is drawn to two very different people: the lovely and flirtatious Camille Belcourt, and Edmund Herondale, a rebellious young Shadowhunter. I enjoyed this a lot more than either of the previous two stories in this collection, perhaps because it had more of a connection to the rest of the Shadowhunters universe… but also because I really enjoyed the side characters. Edmund and Camille were both very entertaining, and I liked their interactions with Magnus. Also, I’m a sucker for an angsty love story (even a very short one), so naturally I liked that aspect of this story as well. 😉

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. [AUDIO DRAMA; Narrators: Billie Piper with a full cast]

Taken in as a child by her aunt and uncle Bertram, shy Fanny Price grows up largely dismissed by her wealthy relations – with the exception of her kind cousin Edmund, with whom she is secretly (and contentedly) in love. But with the arrival of Miss Mary Crawford and her brother, Fanny begins to realise that she may not be so happy to stand by while Edmund’s affection is won by another.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that this is Jane Austen’s least-good book (not that that’s saying much), and I can see why, even though it’s not my least-favourite. The characters are a lot less complex than in most of Austen’s novels, Fanny is a very passive lead, and the romance happens almost entirely off-page. It is still, however, a very entertaining story, and in the case of this production, very well-performed. The story was full of small, domestic dramas that kept me engaged the whole way through, and Mary Crawford was a stand-out character, even though she wasn’t the most likeable… I enjoyed her relationships with both Edmund and Fanny, and the glimpses we got of her internal struggle were really interesting.

The Word of Unbinding by Ursula K. Le Guin. [SHORT STORY]

A story set early in Earthsea’s history, about a wizard who’s trapped in a dungeon, trying to escape and save the world from his captor, whatever the cost to himself. This is too short to really say much about, but it was a sad little tale, and I enjoyed this glimpse into the Earthsea world as Le Guin was still building it.

The Midnight Heir by Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan. [SHORT STORY]

Magnus returns to England after a long absence, and a reckless – and familiar – young Shadowhunter catches his attention. Another hit from this collection! And, if I’m not mistaken (which I might well be, as I’m only two series into the Shadowhunter universe), a first glimpse of the characters and conflicts of The Last Hours? Once again, I liked this a lot; James and Grace were interesting new characters, and I loved seeing Will and Tessa again! (They get a whole star all to themselves. 😊)

The History of England by Jane Austen.

A tongue-in-cheek descrition of some of the Kings and Queens of England, with an empasis on proving the awfulness of Elizabeth I. More interesting to me was a brief, unfinished epistolary novel, Lesley Castle, that was also included, about two friends, one of whose father is marrying an acquaintance of the other. History was quite an enjoyable read, but Lesley Castle was much more fun, and I would love to have seen where the story was going. But alas. 😔

Batman: No Man’s Land, volume 2 by Greg Rucka, Kelley Puckett, Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, Denny O’Neil, Dafydd Wyn, Chris Renaud, John Ostrander & Larry Hama. [COMIC; Illustrators: Mike Deodato Jr., Wayne Faucher, Damion Scott, John Floyd, Andy Kuhn, Chris Ivy, Sean Parsons, Staz Johnson, Stan Woch, Roger Robinson, James Pascoe, Pascale Alixe, Eduardo Barreto, Graham Nolan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Scott McDaniel, Karl Story, Dan Jurgens, Jim Balent, Marlo Alquiza, Rick Burchett & James Hodgkins.]

The second volume of No Man’s Land, which wasn’t quite as interesting as the first. The Azrael storyline did pick up a bit, however, and I really enjoyed the chapters of Batgirl that were included (featuring Cass!), even though they’re also included in the regular Batgirl volumes, which I’ve already read. And I liked the Poison Ivy episode a lot! Not much else to say here, but I’m definitely still enjoying this series enough to continue on to volume 3 (the first in the series that won’t be a re-read!).

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.

An orphan with few prospects, Jane Eyre decides to make her own way in life by advertising as a governess, but her unusual new employer is as intrigueing to Jane as he is intrigued by her, and it’s not long before she finds herself hopelessly in love. I found the beginning of this book very slow-going, but was able to get more into it once the unending misery of Jane’s childhood was done with, thankfully… And I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed the romance! There was so much chemistry between Jane and Mr. Rochester, and the way they interacted was incredibly sweet (most of the time). Downsides: the very un-nuanced characterisation of Bertha, though given her role in the story, and the time period in which this was written, I wasn’t really expecting anything else.

Nightwing: A Knight in Blüdhaven by Chuck Dixon. [COMIC; Illustrators: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story & Roberta Tewes]

Dick Grayson strikes out alone, and tries to make a life for himself in Blüdhaven, both as a civilian and as the city’s masked protector. I like Dick as a character, and enjoyed seeing him try to make his way without relying on Bruce, and form his own network of information. There’s not much to the story here, but I’m hopeful that the series will get better as it goes on. (And I’ve already enjoyed glimpses of it that I’ve seen in other Batman bind-ups.)

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrated by the author]

Harriet and Perdita Lee are ordinary Londoners with an unusual family history: as a girl, Harriet came to England from Druhastrana, a land of unknown location, and dubious reality. And when Perdita sets out to find her homeland, and her mother’s childhood friend Gretel, Harriet must explain how – and why – she left.

Helen Oyeyemi’s writing is some of the most beautiful I’ve ever come across, but I don’t always find that her stories mesh with me, and that’s the case once again with Gingerbread. I got more into the story once Harriet began her tale, but was often confused (especially in the final third of the book when a whole slew of new characters were introduced), and left the story not entirely sure what it was about… but still wanting to read everything else Oyeyemi has ever written. 😅 Harriet and Perdita were both great characters, too, and I really enjoyed Oyeyemi’s narration of the audiobook. 🍊🍊🍊

November & December Wrap-Up

It feels weird to still be talking about 2020 so far into January, but alas, I’ve been very slow to collect my thoughts on my November and December reads… which weren’t numerous, I’m afraid (I hit a bit of a reading slump at the beginning of December), but made up for the quantity with pure quality! For although I only read 13 things, 5 of them were 5-stars! Which is more than half my 5-star reads for the whole year (excepting re-reads)! 😅

BOOKS I REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I READ

The Promise by Gene Luen Yang. [COMIC; Illustrated by Gurihiru]

A continuation of the Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series, in which Aang and Zuko’s friendship is tested by their different hopes for the future of the former Fire Nation colonies – particularly in the case of Yu Dao, which has existed for so long that its Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom residents have come to consider themselves a single people.

To be honest I love this world and these characters so much that Yang could have written basically anything and it would’ve pleased me, but this story surpassed all my expectations! 😁 I loved seeing Zuko continued to develop as a character even after achieving his goals, and his friendship with Aang and the pressure it came under here were perfectly characterised. And the side-story with Toph’s earthbending school nicely offset the more serious themes of the complexities of decolonisation…

Ravensong by T.J. Klune.

The sequel to Wolfsong, but this time following Gordo, his history with the Bennet pack, and how it’s changed over the years, and how it’s changed him. Gordo was my favourite character in Wolfsong, so it’s no surprise that I was excited for this book, but sadly I didn’t think it was quite as good. I still love Gordo, of course, and I found his backstory really heart-wrenching; the plot was also very solid, and continued on where Wolfsong left off, but I didn’t think the romance was quite as well-developed, and I didn’t manage to form much of an attachment to Mark beyond what rolled over from the last book… The best parts of this for me were probably the flashbacks, but I’m also looking forward to seeing where the plot goes in Heartsong.

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole.

Emma Troy’s search for the truth about her late parents is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a powerful, half-crazed Lykae, furious with her for no apparent reason; Lachlain, meanwhile, finds the strength to break free of his ancient prison when he catches the scent of his destined mate… but he doesn’t expect her to be a vampire.

This was a fun, and pretty addictive read, but I found myself growing a little bored towards the end, and looking back, I’m finding it kind of difficult to remember the details… The good: Emma I liked well enough; she and Lachlain had decent chemistry; the steamy scenes were a good level of steamy. The less good: I didn’t care about much of the Valkyrie or Lykae lore, which was what this book mostly focused on, worldbuilding-wise; I find phonetically-written Scottish accents more comical than sexy, and the old-fashioned slang didn’t help with that; and I found the side characters beyond the main couple all kind of boring. Also, trigger warnings for kidnapping and dubious (at least) consent, and probably other things that I can’t think of right now…

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare.

The final book in the Mortal Instruments series, in which Clary & friends face off against the seemingly-unbeatable Sebastian and his growing army of Endarkened for the last time. As always, Clare delivered a pretty epic conclusion here, but although I really enjoyed it, I still kind of agree with the people who say that this second trilogy didn’t need to exist… The first half of this book, in particular, was a real slog (as were the two preceding novels), but I do feel like the ending made up for most of it. I’m mainly still in the Shadowhunter universe for the Infernal Devices cameos, which were finally delivered in this book (that epilogue was perfect), and other good things were: 1) Sebastian is still a really great, thoroughly hate-able villain, and 2) I’m glad that all the romances ended out well (kind of).

The Toll  by Neal Shusterman. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Greg Tremblay]

Three years after the events of Thunderhead, Citra and Rowan wake to find themselves separated once again, each playing pieces for different sides of the Scythedom’s ideological split, and the world utterly changed. A great end to a great trilogy! I found the ending really satisfying, as well as the journey to get there – though, like in Thunderhead, I wish that there had been more interaction between Citra and Rowan. 😅 Some of the highlights for me were Citra’s search through the backbrain, the bits of worldbuilding we got via the chapter intros (especially all the Tonist analysis), and Grayson’s relationships with Jeri, Morrigan, and of course the Thunderhead itself… And while it wasn’t at any point as great as Thunderhead‘s most exciting moments, I found that it was much more consistently good the whole way through.

The Search by Gene Luen Yang. [COMIC; Illustrated by Gurihiru]

After the events of The Promise, Zuko finds a letter that may contain a new hint as to his mother’s location, and he sets out with the rest of Team Avatar to track her down – with a volatile Azula along for the ride! Of all the Avatar comics, this was definitely the one I was looking forward to the most, as the fate of Zuko’s mother is one of the biggest mysteries that the TV series left hanging… and it absolutely didn’t disappoint! I loved the tense interactions between Zuko and Azula, and the flashbacks to their childhood; the search itself takes a really interesting path; and the eventual reveal of Ursa’s fate was surprising and emotional… I’m really looking forward to reading more of these comics when my copy of The Rift, Volume 1 finally arrives! 😅

A Closed & Common Orbit by Becky Chambers.

Now stuck in an artifical body that she never asked for, Lovelace (now called Sidra) searches for a sense of purpose and self. Meanwhile, the young Jane 23 tries to make a life for herself outside the scrap-sorting facility that’s all she’s ever known.

I loved this so much. Becky Chambers’ books have always been great, but I this is my favourite thing she’s written by far; the characterisation is just so thoughtful (I’m not sure how else to describe it, but of course the security-AI would prefer to stand in the corner, it makes so much sense)! Naturally I loved Sidra (I’m a sucker for a good, multi-faceted AI character), but Pepper’s backstory was also incredibly touching. And the plot was basically perfect, too. There’s not much of it – the book is almost entirely character- (and relationship-) driven – but it blends the two timelines together wonderfully, and makes for a natural and gratifying conclusion to both Pepper and Sidra’s character arcs.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrators: Emily Woo Zeller & Cynthia Farrell]

In a war that spans all of time, two rival agents send each other letters, and slowly fall in love. This is very poetically written, and I can see why it’s such a hit-or-miss book for a lot of people, but I really loved the vivid imagery, and I think this may have been my favourite book of last year. (If not, it definitely came close.) The romance was slow-building and it was wonderful to see it develop so gradually, and although there’s not much else of plot in this story, it was interesting to see the small, often arbitrary-seeming actions that Red and Blue took in order to shift the timeline.

A lot of the reviews I’ve seen for the audiobook in particular say that the two perspectives aren’t distinct enough, but I never found that a problem myself, and I think that the narrators both performed excellently.

The Novice by Taran Matharu.

And we go from an incredibly unique book to an incredibly boring one. The Novice follows a young orphan called Fletcher who accidentally summons himself a demon familiar, and must then attend a fancy magical school, where he’s out of place because of his common background, and the unorthodox way that he bonded with his demon. I liked the concept of a demon-summoning school, at least, and the three-way war between humans, orcs and elves made for a potentially intriguing storyline, especially as the series goes on… But! The characters were so awful. 😑

The villains were all comically evil, actual-enemy-of-the-nation and petty bullies alike – and Fletcher! Fletcher was the most annoying protagonist I’ve had the displeasure of reading about in a while. He’s the most open-minded person in the book, uniqely capable of accepting people for who they are; he’s the most un-racist human you’ll ever meet, able to convert the most stubborn or bigots with one encounter; he’s not naturally talented at all and has to work really hard for his skill, we’re told, even as we’re shown the exact opposite; and he’s so eloquent that he must have his own personal speech-writer following him around, scripting everything he says. Seriously, it’s not even as though he doesn’t talk like a teenager – it’s that he doesn’t talk like a person.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.

Thankfully, though, I was able to end the year on a high note with Nevernight, which tells the story of another orphan – Mia Corvere – who swears revenge on the men who ruined her family, and heads off to join the Red Church – an organisation of deadly assassins – in order to learn the skills she needs. Dark, witty, frequently edgy and over-the-top (which I love… sometimes), with well-developed and surprisingly likeable (for murderers) characters, and a plotline that kept me on the edge of my seat – with some truly shocking twists (though admittedly, some of them I was probably more shocked by than I should’ve been). I was given the sequel to this for Christmas, and I can’t wait to get to it as soon as my new TBR game allows… 😅🤞

 

September & October Wrap-Up

What a great two reading months! I hit a bit of a slump towards the end of October (due to a certain book that shall not be named – though you can probably figure out which one from the ratings), but am still ridiculously satisfied with how many books I managed to read, and how great they all were (on average)! 😁 I decided to combine the two months for my wrap-up simply because I had already reviewed everything I read in September, and so didn’t have anything more to say about them; in contrast, I have new things to say about pretty much everything I read in October… so here it is:

BOOKS I ALREADY REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I READ

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce.

The first book in the Song of the Lioness series, in which Alanna, unwilling to accept a future where all she can expect is to find a rich husband and raise his children, disguises herself as her twin brother Thom in order to begin training to become a knight.

This book was a re-read (and not even for the first time), and so was pretty much exactly what I expected, and exactly as good as I remember it being – though I’ll admit that one of those stars is probably primarily a nostalgia star. A great story, which introduces (what will eventually become) some great characters, but incredibly rushed-feeling.

In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce.

The second book in the Song of the Lioness series, which follows Alanna as she becomes a squire and begins to prepare for her Ordeal of Knighthood. This entry in the series also felt quite rushed (though not to the same extent as Alanna: The First Adventure), but improved on its predecessor with a more elaborate plot, and some great character development.

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce.

The third Song of the Lioness book, in which Alanna, now Tortall’s first lady knight in centuries, spends some time among the Bazhir tribes and accidentally becomes shaman to one of them. This is probably my favourite entry in this series, and has the least pacing problems; it also tells a much more character-driven story than any of the other books, focusing on developing the Bazhir as a people, and on Alanna’s personal growth, which I loved (predictably).

Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce.

The fourth and final Song of the Lioness book, in which an old enemy rears his ugly head again, and Alanna goes on a quest for the legendary Dominion Jewel. This made for a pretty great finale, though once again, its pacing was not the greatest. Highlights of the book included: The journey through war-torn Sarain and the addition of Thayet and Buri to the cast; the alternate-perspective chapters that let us know what was going on back in Tortall; Thom finally becoming a major player; and the whole of the climax at the end of the book. Lowlights were: Liam being judgemental; Alanna being self-conscious about her love life (moreso than before); and I wish that the motivations of some of the minor villains in the series had been expanded upon.

Gentleman Jole & the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold.

The final (hopefully not forever, though! 🤞) installment in the Vorkosigan Saga, where we get ourselves a new protagonist in the form of Oliver Jole (who may have been in previous books in the series, but if so I didn’t remember him), whose life has been intertwined with Cordelia and Aral’s for some time. I had a harder time getting into this book than some of the previous ones, probably because of the new protagonist, but I grew to like Jole a lot as the story went on, and I also loved seeing how Cordelia was dealing with her upcoming retirement, as well as with the ongoing (and often alarming) Sergyar colonisation efforts.

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley.

Recalled to duty despite his leg injury, Merrick Tremayne, former East India Company smuggler, is sent off to the heavily-guarded mountains of Peru to retrieve cuttings of cinchona trees to make quinine. But once there, he finds himself holed up in a tiny colony surrounded by salt lines its people are forbidden to cross, with a priest who’s determined to keep him out of the forest – and who seems to have some connection to Merrick’s long-dead grandfather.

If this was a three-star book, then it was definitely a high three-stars. Pulley’s writing was beautiful, Merrick was a really compelling main character, and I found his struggles over how to smuggle the quinine trees out of Peru and his history with the East India Company very interesting. I could have done without the magical realism aspects of the story, which I was less interested in, and which I didn’t feel added much to the story, but they didn’t take away from it either… The real highlight of the book, however, was the relationship between Merrick and Raphael, Bedlam’s young priest, which was quiet and intense and really beautiful, and may be one of my favourite fictional relationships of the year; I’ve seen a few people tag this book as LGTB, and I can see why, though there’s nothing explicitly romantic about their feelings. But romantic or platonic, I still loved it.

Very slow-paced, and almost entirely character-driven, I wasn’t blown away by this book while I was reading it, but it’s definitely stuck with me, and every time I think about it I find myself appreciating it more. So don’t be surprised if this rating goes up at some point. 😊

The Doll that Took a Detour by Honobu Yonezawa. [SHORT STORY COLLECTION; Translated by Ex.wife]

A collection of stories from the Kotenbu universe, in which Houtarou is coerced into solving a number of small mysteries, and learns a little more about himself along the way. These were all very memorable stories, and I enjoyed them a lot despite already knowing most of the story beats (from the anime adaptation, Hyouka, which I watched a long time ago). My favourites were probably The Case of the Handmade ChocolateSappy New Year, and of course the titular story, The Doll That Took a Detour, but To Commit a Deadly Sin also contains one of my favourite moments from the whole series, ever… so all in all, I’d say this is a pretty strong collection.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

A classic novel of pettiness and unnecessary suffering, which I hated. I’ll be posting a review of this at the weekend, though, so that’s all I’m going to say here.

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black.

The third and final book in the Folk of the Air trilogy, which began with The Cruel Prince, wherein Jude returns to Faerie as a favour to her sister, and is forced to confront her foster father’s rebellion against the crown, as well as her own feelings for the High King.

I went into this book with pretty low expectations, as I’d heard less-than-stellar things about how the series wrapped up, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised! Granted, a lot of the plot developments seemed a little too convenient, and the resolution to the dramatic cliff-hanger ending of The Wicked King was rather underwhelming (and felt a little retcon-y, to be honest), but it was still such a fun book to read! Jude and Cardan’s relationship was also a lot less fraught, which made the story less tense, but pleased my shipper’s heart. 😅 So while I definitely think that this was the least good of the three books, I still enjoyed it almost as much as the other two…

 

August Wrap-Up

Another great reading month! I hit a bit of a slump towards the end, as I’d just finished catching up on the Attack on Titan anime, and consequently only wanted to read fanfiction… but I pulled through – and a lot of the things I ended up reading this month I loved! 💕 Here’s what thought of them all:

BOOKS I ALREADY REVIEWED

 

[REVIEW]

 

OTHER BOOKS I READ

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer.

The second book in the Twilight series, which I’ve been re-reading along with Hot & Bothered’s hilarious Twilight in Quarantine podcast (which I highly recommend). This is still by far my least favourite in the series, but my experience with it this time around was much more fun than I remember my first read-through being… perhaps because I knew what I was getting this time, or perhaps because of the podcast, but probably a combination of both.

On Liberty by John Stuart Mill.

An essay on the freedoms of the individual, and when and how far governments should be permitted to limit those freedoms – coming down hard in favour of individuals. Mill made a lot of points that I agreed with, and a good number that I didn’t, but all were great food for thought. The parts of this essay that I personally found most interesting were those that involved religious tolerance and religious indifference; the benefits and disadvantages of a standardised curriculum in schools; and the discussion of the sale of poisons (as an example of limitations on trade), which reminded me of more modern attitudes towards the sale of firearms… And although Mill’s paragraphs do tend to go on for pages, I found this surprisingly readable – and his points are clearly put if not succinctly.

The Magic in the Weaving by Tamora Pierce. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrators: Tamora Pierce & Full Cast Audio]

The first book in the Circle of Magic series, which is part of Pierce’s Emelan universe, in which Sandry, Tris, Daja and Briar are brought to Winding Circle, meet each other for the first time, and discover their unusual magics. This is one of my favourite series of all time, and it still holds up on re-reading (or listening, in this case); in fact, I found myself liking this first book even more than I did before! The narration was a little less expert than I was anticipating after listening to The Healing in the Vine in July, but I don’t think it would’ve been so noticeable if I’d been listening to the series in order… 😅

Heartstopper, Volume 1 by Alice Oseman. [COMIC; Illustrated by the author]

The first in a cute comic series that serves as a prequel-of-sorts to Solitaire, and follows Charlie (Tori’s brother) and Nick (his new classmate) as they become friends, and begin to develop romantic feelings for one another. I generally prefer my romances to be a bit more angsty than this, but there’s also something to be said for a story so unrelentingly fluffy. 💕

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell.

A middle-grade story about a girl who’s found floating in a cello case after a shipwreck, and her search for the mother whom everybody keeps telling her must have died. I found both the writing and the characters a little too self-consciously quirky for my taste, but I enjoyed the story, and the bonds that Sophie formed with her guardian Charles and her rooftopper friends.

Heartstopper, Volume 2 by Alice Oseman. [COMIC; Illustrated by the author]

The second volume in the Heartstopper series, in which Nick questions his sexuality, and Charlie struggles with his assumption that he’s falling in love with a straight guy… My feelings on this were much the same as for volume one: still very cute; still very fluffy; & overall a quick, enjoyable read. Aled (from Radio Silence) also made a brief appearance in this volume, which simultaneously gave me hope for more cameos, and made me want to cry a little (because Aled… 😭).

Heartstopper, Volume 3 by Alice Oseman. [COMIC; Illustrated by the author]

… and the last of the currently-released volumes of Heartstopper, wherein Charlie and Nick finally get together, but are faced with the new challenge of having to tell their friends. This is definitely my favourite of the series so far! There’s a lot more conflict – not so much between Nick and Charlie, but between them and their friends – and the way that the shifting dynamics of the whole cast was written is both compelling and believable. The side-characters are also much more prominent in this book than the last two, and I enjoyed spending time with them a lot – in particular, Charlie’s friend Tao is rapidly becoming one of my favourites, and I also found myself bizarrely invested in the two teachers who are supervising their school trip, even though they’ve barely had any page time… 😅

The Power in the Storm by Tamora Pierce. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrators: Tamora Pierce & Full Cast Audio]

The second book in the Circle of Magic series, in which pirates prepare to attack Winding Circle, Tris is reunited with her long-lost cousin, and the four mages begin testing the limits of their combined powers. This was one of my favourite books in this series on my first read-through, and my feelings on it haven’t changed much; the continuing development of the characters, relationships and world are all excellent, and I particularly enjoyed the interactions between Tris and Briar. 😊

Attack on Titan: No Regrets by Gun Snark (complete edition). [MANGA; Illustrated by Hikaru Suruga; Series created by Hajime Isayama]

A prequel manga to the Attack on Titan series, following my (and basically everyone else’s) favourite character Levi when he first joins the Survey Corps – for less than savoury reasons. I loved the anime version of the No Regrets storyline, but the anime goes into even more detail, and in consequence is even better! Also, the art is amazing… & I may be a little bit in love with the way that Hikaru Suruga draws Levi. 💕

The Miller’s Dance by Winston Graham.

The ninth book in the Poldark series, and my least favourite so far, not because the writing was worse, or the story any less gripping, but because most of my favourite characters didn’t make much of an appearance, and almost everyone who did, I either hate with a passion (i.e. Stephen), or am extremely annoyed at/disappointed with. 😑 As is always the case with this series, I found it emotional and exhausting, and I definitely need a bit of a break before I start the next one – in which hopefully there will be less Stephen. (All I want is for Stephen to go away forever; is that too much to ask?! 😭)

The Fire in the Forging by Tamora Pierce. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrators: Tamora Pierce & Full Cast Audio]

The third book in the Circle of Magic series, and the last in my out-of-order re-read (though there are four books in total), in which the four young mages travel with their teachers to the drought-stricken Gold Ridge, get involved with a visiting Trader caravan, and try to untangle their out-of-control magics… I’ve found myself appreciating Daja a lot more in this read-though of the series than in previous ones, and this was very much her story, with the encounter with her former people being its emotional heart. And a very emotional one it was indeed! I don’t actually cry at much, but there were a few moments in this that made me a little weepy (for both happy and sad reasons).