#BookTubeAThon 2017: Update 3 & Review

JUST FINISHED: Nowhere People by Paulo Scott.

Driving home one evening from a Workers’ Party meeting, Brazilian law student Paulo meets a young girl on the side of the road, and decides to give her a lift. Maína is fourteen years old, Guarani Indian, and lives with her family in a roadside encampment; she’s not planning on going home.

If I could rate the two halves of this book separately, then I would. I didn’t exactly dislike the first half of the book, but I found it very difficult to get through… Scott’s words themselves (or at least Daniel Hahn’s translation of them) were really beautiful, but I found the way they were structured – each paragraph seeming to take up three or four pages, for no apparent reason – made it really tiring to read, and although (again), I didn’t precisely dislike the main character Paulo, I disapproved of nearly all his life decisions, and found it extremely uncomfortable being inside his head. The sections from Maína’s perspective I found easier to get through, but there weren’t very many of them, and they were all quite short.

However, about halfway through the book we’re introduced to a new main character, Donato, from whose perspective almost the entire remainder of the book is shown, and I loved this part (despite the continuing problem with the paragraph structure). His outlook on the world, his circumstances, his relationships with his friends and parents… they were all really interesting, and only seemed to be becoming more so as the book went on. In particular, I really loved his performance activism towards the end, and the contrast it provided with Paulo’s much less fruitful efforts at activism at the beginning of the book… I only regret that the story ended where it did, as the final scene (a return to Paulo’s perspective) marked a dramatic change for both Paulo and Donato, which I feel could have been explored further.

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: So glad that I finished this book (& the review is slightly late, I know, but I promise that I finished it before midnight)! For a while I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I pulled through! 😆 This was still my least successful booktubeathon ever, but with this third book, I’m actually pretty happy with how it went, as I spent much of the week either  at work, or super-tired, or super-distracted (by Final Fantasy XII 😓)…

And I’ve decided to count this book as completing the cover-buy challenge, as well as the one it was originally intended for, as, well, the whole set of & other strories books that I own I bought at least 80% because they were so pretty. (The other two were By Night the Mountain Burns, and The Alphabet of Birds.)

Books Completed: 3
Pages Read: 914
Challenges Completed: 6/7

#BookTubeAThon 2017: Update 2 & Review

JUST FINISHED: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken.

A terrifying illness sweeps over the US, killing almost every child who catches it – which is all of them. The lucky survivors, however, might not be so lucky after all, as they’ve all been corralled into massive, dehumanising rehabilitation camps that are supposedly going to help cure them of the frightening, uncontrollable new abilities the the disease has left them with… Ruby is in one of the worst camps, and has been hiding one of the most dangerous kinds of power; a power which may now have come to light.

It’s been a long enough time now since the end of the dystopian craze that I’m no longer put off by the very idea of reading a dystopian novel, but oddly, I think that I would probably have enjoyed The Darkest Minds even if I’d read it back then… Like most good dystopians, there are a lot of truly horrific things going on in this book, but it’s also strangely fun. The characters are all wonderfully quirky, and I loved the way they interacted with each other – and a decent chunk of the book is spent on exploring that dynamic. 😊

Ruby made for a sympathetic and likeable lead, and her fear of her abilities, and her hesitance to use them – even when they would undoubtedly have been helpful – made a lot of sense; I personally found her a lot more relatable than many of the dystopian heroes and heroines that I’ve come across before. As for the side characters: Liam was a sweetheart the whole way through. I’d like to see his character developed a bit more as the series goes on, but as things are now, I like him a lot. Likewise with Zu, who was a very interesting character, but a little under-developed. Chubs was wonderful, too, and the way that he and Ruby slowly warmed up to one another was one of my favourite things about the book… I also really enjoyed reading about Clancy, who was endearing and suspicious in equal measure until pretty close to the end of the book; I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Braken has done with his character in the next two books.

Plot-wise, the beginning of the book shaped out the world really well, and the final part was exciting and action-packed. There was something of a lull in the middle of the book, but – as I said earlier – I appreciated the space that that left for character- and relationship-building. I’m also a fan of the Ruby-and-Liam romance that is in the works, though I also wouldn’t object to (and may have spotted some hints at) some further exploration of Ruby’s relationship with Clancy, provided that Bracken doesn’t shy away from how messed up it is (and I feel that she wouldn’t).

So, yeah, I really liked this book, and am glad that I finally got round to reading it… Now to hunt down the sequels! 😉

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Finding it difficult to pull my mind away from Final Fantasy XII, so I’m not sure how much more I’ll be reading today, but I hope to pick up either Nowhere People or Darkbeast next…

Books Completed: 2
Pages Read: 608
Challenges Completed: 4

#BookTubeAThon 2017: Update 1 & Review

JUST FINISHED: All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman.

Tom’s wife isn’t ignoring him, she just can’t see him any more… leaving Tom with only the scant hours of her flight to Vancouver in which to convince her that he’s still by her side.

This book is incredibly short, and very anecdotal, which combine to make the overarching plot quite weak; it’s interesting conceptually, but I found that I wasn’t given enough time with either Tom or his wife (whose superhero name is the Perfectionist) to become fully invested in them, or in their plight – both due to the length of the book itself, and to the amount of time that was spent meandering through Tom’s musings over the various different superheroes he’s known.

Kaufman’s writing, however, was wonderful, and the descriptions he included of all Tom’s superhero friends and their powers were incredibly imaginative. In particular, I was struck by the Projectionist and Mistress Cleanasyougo, but to be honest, if Kaufman was to write a directory of superheroes, I’d read it happily. I also spent much of the book (and still remain, to a certain degree) unsure of whether many of the superheroes were actually personifications different kinds of mental illness, but I may have been reading too much into it… and in any case, I doubt that knowing for sure would have made me like the book any more or less.

Conclusion: Interesting, imaginative, enjoyable, and splendidly written, but weak in terms of story and character development.

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Happy to see some sunshine, which allowed me to get that tricky “read a book outside” challenge finished early on. I’m already halfway through book #2 (The Darkest Minds, which I started yesterday), so hopefully I’ll be able to finish that soon, too. 😊

Books Completed: 1
Pages Read: 373
Challenges Completed: 3

#BookTubeAThon 2017! | TBR

Guys, it’s Booktubeathon time again! 😆 Which means… a whole week of reading, and reviews, and challenges! (If I can drag myself away from my PS4…) If you’re new to the Booktubeathon, it’s an annual week-long readathon hosted by Ariel Bissett on Youtube, and always includes reading challenges to guide your TBR, daily video challenges and giveaways, a discount code over at The Book Depository, and this year there will also be a readalong, so that people can (if they so desire) all pick up the same book and read together for a day. I don’t tend to take part in much beyond the actual reading, but it’s still probably my favourite of all the readathons I’ve taken part in.. 💕

As always, I’ve tried to tailor my TBR to tick off as many of the challenges as I possibly can (and I hope to be posting reviews of each one as I go along), though, interestingly, it looks like that might be a bit more difficult this year than usual, as quite a few of the challenges are more situational than book-specific. If that makes any sense at all (it probably doesn’t, but you’ll see what I mean)… 😓 But in any case, here’s what I’ve decided on so far:

1) Read a book with a person on the cover.

For this challenge I’ve decided (after much agonising, because there are so many books I want to read that could qualify for this challenge) to go with Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes, which is a fantasy novel about a girl who lives in a society where everyone has an animal companion that represents their inner darkness – or something of the kind – which is sacrificed when they come of age.

2) Read a hyped book.

In contrast, I knew what I was going to read for this challenge almost as soon as it was announced: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, which I picked up ages ago after hearing so many people heaping praise on the series… and then never looking at it again. I don’t even know what it’s about, really (kids with superpowers, I believe, and something to do with a road trip?), but I’m looking forward to finding out! 😁

3) Finish a book in one day.

This is the first of the two “situational challenges” that I mentioned earlier (meaning, ones that are to do with how you read, rather than what you read), so I haven’t really picked out anything specific for it; it may well end up being Darkbeast, as it’s quite short, but more certain is that if I get this challenge done, it will be on either Wednesday or Thursday, as those are my two days off next week…

4) Read about a character who’s very different from you.

I was tempted to choose Now I Rise by Kiersten White (the sequel to And I Darken) for this challenge, as Lada – a murderous Transylvanian princess – is about as different from me as a person can get, but I thought it would be a bit of a cheat to pick a book that I’d already started reading, even though I’m only about 60 pages in… So instead I decided to go with Nowhere People by Paulo Scott, which is about a Brazilian law student (also called Paulo), who one day decides to give a lift to a young indigenous girl who he spots on the side of the road as he drives home.

5) Read a book only while outdoors.

This is the challenge that I’m dreading the most, as it looks like it’s going to rain for most of next week… Understandably, I’d like to pick something short for the challenge, but picking Darkbeast again seems like a bit much (especially since it’s going to be ticking off the next challenge as well 😓). All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman might work, as it’s both very short, and on my kindle (which has a waterproof cover), but I’m not feeling particularly enthused about it right now, so who knows.

6) Read a book you bought because of the cover.

Like most people, I’m drawn to pretty covers, but I was surprised by how difficult I found it to pick a book out for this challenge, as the only book I own that I bought solely because of the cover is The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, which I’ve finally decided to get rid of, after accepting the fact that I’m never going to read it… So I’ve decided that this is going to be another challenge that will be fulfilled by Darkbeast; I didn’t just buy it for its cover (it also has complimentary comments from my favourite author on the back, and the synopsis sounds pretty interesting, too), but it was definitely a significant contributing factor… 😅

7) Read seven books.

And all this leaves me with three more books to pick out if I want to meet the ultimate Booktubeathon goal of seven books in seven days (which I do)! But I figure I should give myself some flexibility here – and I don’t want to just end up re-hashing the TBR I did for my holiday in Skye last week! A couple of (very shaky) possibilities are A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. Or maybe a graphic novel? 🤔 I guess I’ll figure it out when I get there. 😊

[EDIT (22/7/17): The Booktubeathon starts on Monday, and will end the following Sunday… which is probably something I should’ve mentioned earlier… 😓]

#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 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 😉 )!