#HolidayBookTubeAThon 2016: Update 2 & Mini-Review

Rick Riordan//Percy Jackson & the Greek HeroesJUST FINISHED: Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan.

A collection of tales about Greek heroes, re-told through the hilarious voice of Percy Jackson, á la Percy Jackson & the Greek Gods. Highlights include: Perseus & Medusa, Jason & the Argonauts, Theseus & the Minotaur, almost 100 pages on the trials of Hercules… along with several others. My particular favourite was probably the story about Psyche & Eros, if only because it was one of the few stories that ended happily, and Hera (who the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series has already conditioned me to dislike immensely) makes for a truly beastly villain.

I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as Percy Jackson & the Greek Gods, however, and I think that was mainly because some of the stories tended to drag… I already mentioned that the Hercules chapter was almost 100 pages long, but it could also be quite repetitive at times, and many of the other stories the same flaw. This is for an obvious reason: while Greek Gods was divided up into individual stories, Greek Heroes was instead divided by character, and many of the heroes of Greek mythology did a great deal of adventuring.

That said, this was still a fantastic book, full of great stories told in a fresh, and very witty way. Riordan’s characterisation was really great, as well, and although I was already familiar with a lot of these stories, I found myself often looking at the characters in a different light than I had previously (especially Jason, who came across as something of a sweetheart in this, even if he makes some colossally stupid mistakes).

4 stars

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Probably going to finish up my readathon here, as I have various things to do tonight other than reading. I’m happy with these results, though, so all is well. ^^’

Books Completed: 2
Pages Read: 610
Challenges Completed: 0/4

#HolidayBookTubeAThon 2016: Update 1 & Mini-Review

Marie Rutkoski//The Winner's CurseJUST FINISHED: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski.

Kestrel is the only child of Valoria’s most distinguished general, and as such, she is expected to go far in her country’s military, but she’s always preferred to fight her battles through subtler means: politics and influence; reading people, and effecting their reactions. Arin is a Herrani slave, bought impulsively by Kestrel when she recognises – and identifies with – a defiant streak in him. In purchasing Arin, however, she may have brought the winner’s curse upon herself, paying more than she ever intended, or even imagined was possible.

Before picking this up, I’d heard some pretty rave reviews, but passed them over, since nothing in the book’s description really grabbed me, and I’ve definitely been burned a few times before by the hype machine. That said, I’m really glad that I finally did decide to pick up The Winner’s Curse, because it was fantastic. I expected to find that the story was all about Kestrel’s conflict over the inevitable choice that she’d have to make between marrying a man she doesn’t love (the man she does love being a slave, and therefore not a viable marriage option) or joining the army, but while there was an aspect of that, the plot was mainly composed of building social tension in the first half, and a really interesting demonstrations of the different ways to fight a war in the second (after a climax that came much sooner than I was expecting).

The slow-build in this book is something that I really appreciated, as it gave ample time for character development and world-building – the two things I value most in stories – as well as an interesting and engaging plotline. And both of these were done incredibly well. I really loved both Kestrel and Arin, and the almost-but-not-quite friendship they managed to build up in the first half of the book made for an incredibly dramatic second half (in the best possible way). In terms of world-building, Rutkoski did a great job of creating an absorbing, believable setting, without resorting to massive info-dumps, and while this book took place almost entirely in one city, its ending left me with a great deal of hope that we’ll be able to explore the wider empire in the next two books – something I look forward to immensely.

I’ve seen this book compared a lot to series like Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, but the comparison that really struck me while I was reading was to An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (probably one of my favourite reads of the year), and I feel that fans of that book will definitely like this one, and vice versa.
5 stars

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Ready for bed, but I’ll definitely be taking my next book – Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes – to work with me tomorrow. 😉

Books Completed: 1
Pages Read: 359
Challenges Completed: 0/4

#HolidayBookTubeAThon: TBR!

Happy Christmas, everyone! It’s (almost) time for the Holiday Booktubeathon once again, which means that I will be spending next weekend reading away. 🙂 I’m not really going to be sticking to the challenges – which you can find in the official announcement video – too closely, as I’m going to be surprisingly busy over the Booktubeathon period and I don’t know how much reading time I’ll be able to fit in, but I do still have a tentative TBR:

Rick Riordan//Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes1) Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan. I started reading this today, and I’d like to have finished it before the Booktubeathon starts, but if I haven’t, then this’ll be my first priority. A collection of Greek heroic myths, hilariously re-told by the one and only Percy Jackson

Marie Rutkoski//The Winner's Curse2) The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. The first book in the Winner’s trilogy, which was super-popular a little while ago, & which I’ve heard fantastic things about. I picked this up today in the 12 Days of Kindle sale (along with way too many other things ^^’ ), and I’m super-excited to read it, even though I don’t know too much about the story.

Wild Lily//K.M. Peyton3) Wild Lily by K.M. Peyton. If I manage to finish both of those, then I’ll be picking up Wild Lily next, a new book about aeroplanes from the author who first made me love aeroplanes. This will also count for a challenge (a book that was a gift), so I suppose there’s a small chance that I might manage to complete one of them this year! 😛

I haven’t previously bothered with mini-reviews for the Holiday Booktubethon, since there’s always so much else going on, but I will be making an attempt at it this year, so keep an eye out for updates (if you think they’re something worth anticipating 😉 )!

#BookTubeAThon 2016: Update 5 & Mini-Review

Bram Stoker//DraculaJUST FINISHED: Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Engaged as a solicitor to Count Dracula, to assist him in acquiring a house in England, Jonathan Harker comes to Transylvania to meet the man himself. Over the course of his stay, however, he finds himself becoming more and more suspicious that the Count is much more than he appears.

By which I mean that he’s a vampire, of course. And that’s not a spoiler; everyone and their mother knows that Dracula is a vampire – the most famous literary vampire ever to have existed. More famous even than Edward Cullen! 😉 Something I didn’t know about this book, however, was just how long it is (I don’t think I’ve ever come across a physical copy of it)… so it took me much longer to read than I was expecting. But I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed it! The characters were well fleshed-out, and I really liked all of them, especially Mina and Lucy; I even think it may have passed the Bechdel test, which is a big surprise coming from a book written in the nineteenth century. 😀

The plot was also really well thought out, and very interesting, with mostly good pacing. There were a couple of places where it dragged a little (particularly while Van Helsing and company were planning how to deal with their vampire problem), but usually I found that the scenes that seemed unnecessary when I was reading them became more integral to the story as it went on. Overall, I had a really great time reading this, and I’m glad that I finally decided to pick it up. 🙂

[An addendum re: the film:
Dracula has been adapted a great many times, but the version I watched was the 1931 film starring Bela Lugosi, which was greatly abridged from the book, and in a few startling ways: For instance, the character of Jonathan Harker’s role seems to have been greatly reduced, and the part he played in the book was given instead to Renfield – most of the characters, in fact, are mangled beyond belief… :/ For the most part, the changes seem to make sense, if you consider that all the events of the book couldn’t possibly have fit into an hour-long film, and it does make a cohesive and enjoyable story in itself, but I was expecting the best-known adaptation of Dracula to be a little more faithful to its source material.]

4 stars

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Booktubeathon is now over! And I didn’t manage to finish all the challenges, but I did at least get most of them – which is an achievement, considering how busy I’ve been this week! I didn’t actually finish the film of Dracula (which was part of one of the challenges) until just after midnight, but I’m still counting it, as that was mostly the fault of my (incredibly slow) internet connection.

Books Completed: 5
Pages Read: 1440
Challenges Completed: 6

#BookTubeAThon 2016: Update 4 & Mini-Review

Brandon Sanderson//Perfect StateJUST FINISHED: Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson.

Kairominas, God-Emperor, has unified the world and brought it peace, and now spends his days on scientific and magical research, and battling his nemesis. He’s working towards mastering controlling the weather, after which he will be omnipotent, and will have achieved all there is to achieve in life. The Wode, however, disagree – they want him to procreate, and have put together a list of suitable women for him to choose from. His choice? Sophie, a women’s rights activist, from the very bottom of his compatibility list.

As always, Sanderson’s world-building is fantastic – especially considering that this is a short story – as is his writing. I really enjoyed the action scenes towards the end of the book (and it was particularly appropriate that I decided to read this when I’ve had Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots rattling around in my head for several days 😉 ). In terms of the plot and premise of the story, I got spoiled for the major twist a couple of weeks ago, but I found it really interesting regardless. I also loved the relationship dynamic between Kai and Sophie, which was both very funny and incredibly awkward… and there was also a surprising amount of character development (on Kai’s part) packed into such a short story. Would definitely recommend. 😀
4 starsCURRENT READATHON STATUS: If I finish Dracula today, then that’ll be all but one of the challenges complete… but chances are this’ll probably be my last readathon update. 😦

Books Completed: 4
Pages Read: 1034
Challenges Completed: 4

#BookTubeAThon 2016: Update 3 & Mini-Review

Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the AshesJUST FINISHED: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.

Laia is a Scholar, a race of people subjugated by the Martial Empire, so her life’s never been easy, but she’s been lucky so far; she has her friends and family, and is learning a trade, so she’ll be able to support herself when she leaves home. But this all changes when her brother is accused of conspiring with the Scholar Resistance. He’s taken prisoner, their grandparents are slaughtered, and Laia finds herself on the run.

Elias is training to become a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers, and the heir to one of its oldest, most powerful houses, but he despises the violence and oppression that he sees – and is forced to take part in – every day. With his graduation approaching fast, he’s planning on deserting, until an opportunity presents itself for true freedom, without betraying his friends and family, but which may cost him his life.

I was super-excited for this book before it came out (a fantasy setting based on ancient Rome? Yes, please!), but my enthusiasm waned slightly as I waited for the chance to read it (hardbacks are expensive, and even if I’d bought it, my bookshelves are pretty much full :/ ). But I’m so glad that I finally did; I loved this book! The writing was engaging; the plot intriguing, with plenty of unexpected twists and turns (I had real difficulty tearing myself away from this book, even when I had important things to do, i.e. packing). For me, though, the main appeal was the characters:

Laia and Elias were really great leads, both incredibly likeable and relatable, even though they were ostensibly on opposing sides, and at odds for much of the story. Their character growth, too, was incredible; it was wonderful to see how much they both (but especially Laia) changed as the story went on. I also really enjoyed their relationship, which was fraught with tension and misunderstandings, but in a way that always really built up anticipation for their next encounter. And as for the romance, my shipper’s heart has been completely brought to life! 😉 I’m definitely rooting for Laia and Elias, so Elias’ will-they-won’t-they relationship with Helene made me quite anxious at times. I wasn’t so convinced by Laia and Keenan, as they had so few shared scenes (and I had a lot of difficulty trusting Keenan, right from the beginning), but I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship progresses – and keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll take a few more platonic turns. 😛
5 starsCURRENT READATHON STATUS: Didn’t get as much reading done on the train as I’d hoped to, but I’m also making decent progress on Dracula… (It’s much longer than I thought it was.)

Books Completed: 3
Pages Read: 947
Challenges Completed: 2

#BookTubeAThon 2016: Update 2 & Mini-Review

Franny Billingsley//The Folk KeeperJUST FINISHED: The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley.

Corin Stonewall is a Folk Keeper; he protects the people in the orphanage where he lives, and the houses surrounding it, from the Folk – sinister creatures that sicken crops and livestock, rot food and play awful tricks on people if they’re not appeased with gifts and sacrifices. And Corin also has a secret: He’s not really Corin-the-Folk-Keeper, he’s Corinna, a girl who’s taught herself a few Folk Keepers’ tricks in order to gain some semblance of power over her own life. But when a dying man comes looking for her at the orphanage – asking for her by her real name! – and takes her away with him, all her carefully maintained layers of disguise are in danger of falling away.

While I can’t say that I loved this book, I did find it very interesting. Some good things: It was written in an eerie, haunting style that reminded me a bit of David Almond’s work (one of my favourite authors), which made it a very atmospheric read. There were also a couple of characters that I really liked, specifically Finian the lord who wants to be a sailor, and Taffy the deaf dog who so insistently tries to befriend Corinna. The transformation from Corin to Corinna was also quite remarkable, and I enjoyed how the completely separate entities that they initially seemed to be managed to gradually blend together – for such a short book, Corinna had some amazing character growth.

That said, I wasn’t a huge fan of Corinna for most of the first half of the book (she gave off some serious young Voldemort vibes), and was often so childish and petty that I had to consciously remind myself that, no, she wasn’t a petulant ten-year-old, but a teenager, and almost considered an adult in the story’s setting. Most of the book’s cast was unmemorable, and completely faded into the background – even the main villain! (The first few times he appeared, I kept muddling him up with one of the other characters who Corinna arbitrarily disliked.) And lastly, I would really like to have seen more of the Folk, who were made a prominent part of the setting, but weren’t much involved in the plot (beyond it’s premise).

In short: I did enjoy this book (mainly for its writing), but I probably wouldn’t read it again.3 stars

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Sleepy… And I still need to pack! 😦

Books Completed: 2
Pages Read: 497
Challenges Completed: 1