T5W: Books for a Rainy Summer

To be honest, summer hasn’t really shown its face where I live; we had a truly beautiful Sunday, followed by a couple of days of gloomy rainclouds (and as I write, raindrops are attempting to batter their way through my windows). 🌧 Spring does seem to be finally-hopefully-maybe asserting its dominance over winter, but I’m not going to hold my breath for true summer weather for at least a couple more months… So, since this week’s theme – summer reads – is wholly inappropriate, I thought I’d tweak it a little bit, and instead I’ll be sharing with you some of my favourite books for a wet summer spent indoors! 😉

Sunny days always make me want to read light, fluffy contemporaries. Rainy days lend themselves to something a little bit heavier; sad or mysterious or thought-provoking or lonely, or maybe even a little spooky (but not too much!)… Though if you asked me why, I doubt I’d be able to answer. 😅

5) The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

A story about a young girl called Maria Merryweather, who, upon moving to the country to live with her reclusive uncle, discovers that her family is cursed, and it’s up to her to find a way to break it. This is a really magical book, and one that I still love even though I’m considerably older than its target audience. Naturally, I’d especially recommend it for people who love horses. 😊

4) Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Not long after Vera falls out with her best friend – and secret crush – Charlie, he dies in damning circumstances, and Vera is left to decide how far she’s willing to go in order to clear his name… and if she even wants to. Dark, mysterious, heart-wrenching, and gripping from start to finish.

3) The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

The eerie tale of a man who one evening saves the life of a crane that crash-lands in his garden, and shortly afterwards meets a young woman called Kumiko who seems to have some connection to the crane. And interwoven with this is a wonderful folk-tale-esque story about a crane and a volcano (which I may or may not have liked even more than the main storyline)… Beautifully written, and full of wonderful characters; Patrick Ness is an incredible author, and it’s just as evident in The Crane Wife as in some of his better-known works.

2) Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

A dark, slow-building story about a young man and his first love, who suffered deeply from depression. This book is much heavier than the others on this list (even Please Ignore Vera Dietz!), and is very emotionally draining, too, but it’s definitely worth the energy it takes to get through it. Incredibly thought-provoking, and brilliantly atmospheric.

1) The Kotenbu series by Honobu Yonezawa

Also known as the Classics Club series or the Hyouka series, these books tell the story of a high-schooler who’s forced by his sister to join his school’s dying Classics Club. It’s supposed to be a club where students meet in order to read and discuss classical literature, but instead the small club becomes all about solving mysterious happenings around the school and town, and willingly or not, Houtarou – our main character, who prefers to live his life in ‘energy-saving mode” – is dragged into the chaos. Each book offers up a different main case, and they vary in tone and complexity, but are always a great deal of fun. I really love these characters, too, which probably helps. 😆

These books have no official English translation at the moment, but if this series sounds like something you’d like, then fan-translations are available on Baka-Tsuki. Or you could check out the also-fantastic anime (which is called Hyouka). Or  do both! 😉

T5W: LGBTQ+

This is a day late, I know, so it’s more like a Top 5 Thursday than a Top 5 Wednesday, but I’ve been meaning to do a post of my favourite LGBTQ+ books for a while, so I wasn’t going to let this excuse pass me by. 😉

5) The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

A story about the crew of a spaceship, who’ve signed on to create a wormhole between two distant planets, a task that involves a long journey through deep space, and a lot of time with only each other for company. This book is, naturally, heavily character-driven, and the thing I like most about it is the sheer diversity of it, both in terms of race/species and relationships (and the “plus” part of LGBTQ+ plays a prominent role here). My favourite relationship in the book is between one of the crewmembers and the ship’s A.I., which is incredibly sweet, but the book also does a really great job of portraying same-sex relationships, inter-species relationships, and even polyamory.

4) The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

The gay character (who I won’t name here for the benefit of the one person in the world who hasn’t read this series yet, a.k.a. Chloë) in this series is actually closeted for the majority of it (as well as the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, in which he also plays a fairly prominent role), but his forced coming-out scene in The House of Hades is one of my favourite moments in any of Riordan’s books, ever. So many feelings! 😥 I’m not a huge fan of the eventual pairing that Riordan seemingly picked out of a hat for him (something that I’ve been forced to confront more and more recently, as I’ve just started reading The Trials of Apollo series, which is set not long after Heroes of Olympus), but he himself is a really wonderful, well-rounded character, and I love how the (quite sudden) revelation of his sexuality didn’t change his role in the books in the slightest.

3) The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick

The second book in the Erebus Sequence (though the first one reads very much like a prequel, so I think that The Boy Who Wept Blood might actually be a better starting point for this series), which follows a group of Orfani – people who are all remarkably talented and highly educated, but horrifically deformed – in a gothic fantasy setting. The main character in this book (who is also present in The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, but only as a small child) struggles a lot with his sexuality, as his world is about as accepting of homosexuality as our own, over 100 years ago… so, not very much. :/

2) The Half Life trilogy by Sally Green

The main pairing in Sally Green’s Half Life trilogy – which follows a young man who’s half-Black Witch and half-White Witch, and persecuted by both societies – took me somewhat by surprise. It was a relationship I was rooting for from their very first meeting, and I was aware of comments that Green had made on social media that they were perfect for each other, but somehow it always seemed like Nathan would be running from his feelings until long after the series’ ending. (And also, he had a girlfriend, which didn’t bode hugely well.) Needless to say, I was overjoyed when it became canon. 😀 These were two amazing characters, and a beautiful, heartbreaking, and incredibly realistic love story, despite their fantastical circumstances.

1) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Lastly, one of my favourite books of all time, Carry On, which tells the story of Simon and Baz at Watford School of Magicks, where a mysterious being known as the Insidious Humdrum is threatening magic’s very existence. It’s actually a spin-off of another of Rowell’s books, Fangirl, whose main character writes fanfiction of the mega-successful Simon Snow series (which is the Harry Potter of the Fangirl universe). It’s all very meta (and also fantastic)… So pretty much everyone knew from the time the book was announced that Simon and Baz were going to be a couple, and their relationship played a major part in the novel, without eclipsing the main storyline in the slightest. It was just there, slowly and wonderfully developing in the background, while all the drama and mysteries unfolded around it.

You might have noticed that none of the books on this list (except maybe Carry On) advertise themselves as LGBTQ+ stories (i.e. books that deliberately focus on sexuality, and how it influences the lives of their protagonists). This wasn’t exactly a deliberate choice, but although there are plenty of specifically-LGBTQ+ books that I really like (and when you’re writing a book specifically about LGBTQ+ issues, then the only way your readers won’t know about it going in is if they don’t bother to read the blurb), I really appreciate it when authors don’t feel the need to make a big deal out of their characters’ sexuality… and I feel that it goes a long way towards normalising diversity in literature, without trivialising the struggles that LGBTQ+ people face in society.

Also, an honourable mention for Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson, which has a special place in my heart as one of the few books out there (and the only one I’ve read so far) with an openly asexual lead character. It’s also a really good book, of course, just not quite as amazing as most of the books on this list. (It was such a difficult choice!)

[Top 5 Wednesday is run by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. To find out more or join in, check out the Goodreads group.]

Teaser Tuesday #9

THE RULES:

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

A few days ago I finally picked up The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke, a book that’s been on my radar for a few years now – ever since I read her Assassin’s Curse duology (a super-fun adventure featuring an assassin, a pirate and a curse). The Mad Scientist’s Daughter has turned out to be quite a different kind of book, however; less fun and more thought-provoking, but really enjoyable nevertheless. It is, at face value, about a girl who falls in love with a robot, but the story is much deeper than it initially appears.

Teaser #1:

His normalcy was contagious. Her mother would approve.

Teaser #2:

The monitor flickered black, then bright blue, then switched to the screensaver of floating, iridescent jellyfish. Finn had severed the connection from his end. He was gone. Her father’s house was gone. Replaced by jellyfish that looked like ghosts.

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

T5W: Polarising Books

Some books are like Marmite; you either love them have terrible taste, or you hate them just the smell of them makes you want to vomit. As you can probably tell, I’m not a Marmite fan, but these five books left a much more favourable impression, despite their detractors.

Stephanie Perkins//Isla and the Happily Ever After5) Isla & the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

I’ve never heard anyone say outright that they disliked Isla & the Happily Ever After, but pretty much every review I’ve come across agrees that it was something of a disappointing ending to the trilogy – citing their favourite parts of the book as the moments that call back to the previous books. It’s certainly much less dramatic than either Anna or Lola, but everyone else’s loss is apparently my gain, as Isla was my favourite book in the whole series. I really enjoyed the relatively drama-free romance between Isla and Josh, as well as the fact that we actually got to see their relationship progress throughout the story (rather than having it end as soon as they got together). Isla herself was a great selling point, too, as I personally found her (and all her self-consciousness and self-sabotaging) much more relatable than the previous two heroines… Also: Josh. (Josh! ❤ )

William Golding//Lord of the Flies4) Lord of the Flies by William Golding

This is one of those books that’s often used as assigned reading in school (and completely ruined by means of over-analysis), which I think is a big reason why it’s so despised by a lot of people (though I’m sure there are other reasons, too). I didn’t read it in school – lucky me! 😀 – and while I found the first half of the book tough to get through, I loved how dark it got as the story went on.

Lauren Oliver//Requiem3) Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Probably my least favourite of the books on this list, but also a book that I hear being bashed all over the place; the first time I ever even heard of the Delirium  trilogy, it was my aunt telling me that Delirium and Pandemonium were pretty much perfect, but Requiem was a rubbish way to end the series (paraphrased, and probably also embellished). But I actually ended up enjoying Requiem a lot more than Pandemonium (I was never able to take Julian seriously as a love interest…)

Patrick Rothfuss//Slow Regard of Silent Things2) The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

A spin-off from the fantastic Kingkiller Chronicle books, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is divisive even among the most die-hard of Rothfuss’ fans… and I can see why. The story’s told from the perspective of a minor character called Auri, who has a rather unusual outlook on life (to put it mildly), and mainly consists of her wandering around the strange tunnels where she lives, and moving things about. In a way, it’s kind of a story about decorating…? Rothfuss even put a note in the beginning of the book, preemptively apologising to all the fans who would (inevitably) dislike it. I thought it was pretty charming, however, and it had a dream-like tone that made it really easy to get lost in. It helped, of course, that I’ve always found Auri to be a great mystery, and it was fascinating to finally be able to take a look inside her head.

Stephanie Meyer//Twilight1) The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

Most of you are probably pretty sure by now that I’m simply a poor judge of quality literature, but to put the final nail in the coffin: I kind of love Twilight. Sure, its flaws are many, and blatant, and in most cases quite serious. Most of the main characters are either bland or creepy (or both), and the plot is so much an afterthought that it’s a wonder it even made it into the book at all. But still… these books were so much fun to read! And I figure that it’s fine to love something as objectively terrible as this series, as long as I also acknowledge that terribleness… right? 😉

[Top 5 Wednesday is run by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. To find out more or join in, check out the Goodreads group.]

2017 Reading Resolutions

This year’s resolutions aren’t too different from last year’s; I’ve added a new one, and removed an old one, but mostly just changed around the numbers of books I want to read, to reflect what I think is achievable (based on my performance in 2016), but still a challenge. So, without further ado, I plan to:

  • Take part in the Library Scavenger Hunt every month – I’ve been really enjoying taking part so far, and I also appreciated having that push to complete new challenges that last year’s resolution provided, so this one is staying the same.
  • Read 1 non-fiction book – Since I didn’t manage to read any non-fiction last year, I’ll be happy if this year I even manage to get through one. ^^’ In particular, there’s still that book about tea that I’m really hoping to get to…
  • Read 10 adult/literary novels – I overshot a little with this challenge last year, so I’ve reduced my target to 10.
  • Read 3 classics or modern classics – For this challenge, I overshot by a lot. 😳
  • Read 5 books that showcase cultures different to my own – This challenge I’ve reduced because it’s simply not as much of a priority for me as it has been in previous years. I’d still like to broaden my reading horizons, as it were, but I also feel that they’ve already been broadened quite a bit…
  • Read 5 comic (or manga) series or graphic novels – A new challenge (sort of)! I have so many unread comic books sitting on my shelves, and I keep meaning to read them, but, as I’m sure we all know, the best laid plans oft go awry… 😉 The sheer number of “ors” in this challenge is so that I can’t try to cheat my way into filling up all five slots with volumes of the same series.
  • Read 10 short stories (not including spin-off novellas) – Pretty self-explanatory, I think; this challenge will, once again, not be changing in the slightest.
  • Read 5 books that were given or lent to me – I’ve dropped the “or recommended” part from this challenge simply because I already have quite a significant stack of books that people have given me, so I’m definitely not going to run out. 😀
  • Finish reading 3 DNF books – There are only 3 novels left on my DNF list (which is pretty incredible), so there’s little point in increasing this goal. I’ve got a couple of comics on there, too, but they’re not quite such high priorities for me.
  • Finish or catch up on 5 series that I started before the beginning of the year – Another classic resolution for the Jar of Books. As always, I’ve been starting way more series than I’ve been finishing, and hopefully this’ll give me a bit more motivation to change that.

And since ten is a nice, round number to leave off on, that’s it! 😛 My only other blog-related resolution is much more of a loose thing – I’d like to break away from my “one full review a month” format, since it’s not working very well anyway, and write more mini-reviews instead – but I’ll see how that goes in the next few weeks. Good luck with your own resolutions, & I’ll see you tomorrow (with another list 😈 ) in a few days!

2016 in Review: Challenges & Resolutions

goodreads challenge 2016As a counterweight to all the positivity in my last post, I didn’t do too well with my various reading goals for last year (I didn’t do badly, exactly, but I also didn’t do nearly as well as I was hoping/expecting to). 😦 My My Year in Books page looks pretty awesome, but I fell short of my Goodreads Reading Challenge target by 13 books, which is a not-insignificant number… I pretty much resigned myself to failure on this front a couple of months ago, as the only way I would’ve been able to catch up was if I stopped going to work, and ignored all my friends and family for the rest of the year… (There are sacrifices I’m willing to make for the sake of books, but these are not among them.)


Of the fourteen books on my bucket list for the year, I managed to read five, which I’m actually not all that disappointed by. Yes, I still want to read all the other books on it (and I expect at least a few of them will also make it onto my bucket list for 2017), but most of the ones I did cross off had been languishing in my unread shelf for a long time, for basically no reason except that I kept getting distracted by other shiny things. The five books in question are:


As for my Reading Resolutions, I completed a grand total of… (drumroll, please) 2 out of 10! Impressive, I know. 😉 I did, however, come really close to finishing most of them, so I probably won’t be modifying them too much for 2017. But here’s a re-cap/round-up:

1) Take part in the Library Scavenger Hunt every month:

2) Read 5 sci-fi novels:

3) Read 3 DNF books: [completed 1]

4) Read 15 adult/literary novels: [completed 13]

5) Read 5 classics or modern classics: [completed 1]

    • Dracula by Bram Stoker [review linked above]

6) Read 7 books that showcase cultures different to my own: [completed 4]

    • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa (Japan)
    • A Fool, Free by Beate Grimsrud (Norway & Sweden) [review linked above]
    • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (Dominican Republic) [review linked above]
    • Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera (Mexico) [review linked above]

7) Read 3 non-fiction books: [completed 0]

    • I failed so badly at this challenge. 😳

8) Finish/catch up on 5 series that I started before the beginning of the year: [completed 4]

9) Read 5 books that were given, lent or recommended to me: [completed 3]

    • Stardust by Neil Gaiman [review]
    • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz [review linked above]
    • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

10) Read 10 short stories (not including spin-off novellas): [completed 8]

    • The Threads of Time by C.J. Cherryh; Triceratops Summer by Michael Swanwick; The Most Important Thing in the World by Steve Bein; Himself in Anachron by Cordwainer Smith (all from The Time Traveller’s Almanac)
    • Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie (from Dangerous Women)
    • Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
    • Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson [review linked above]
    • Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera [review linked above]

2016 in Review: Favourites

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your eggnog / champagne / whatever it is that people drink at New Year. 😉 Here at the Jar of Books, I will still be talking about 2016 for a few more days, as it’s time to share with you my favourite books of the year! 😀 So, here they are (in order of reading, not preference):

Alison Goodman//The Dark Days ClubI read a lot of good books this year, but the first one that really impressed me was The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman, which I picked up on a whim back in April, knowing almost nothing about it (except that it was by the same person who write Eon, a book I had heard about but not read), but thinking it sounded like fun. It was so much more than fun, though, with exactly the right balance of action and mystery and romance for my mood at the time. The sequel will be coming out in a few weeks, and I plan to read it as soon as it’s in my hands; hopefully it’s just as good as this one! 🙂 [I have a review up of this book, if you’re interested.]

Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the AshesFantasy seems to have been the vast majority of everything I read in 2016, but this next book was really different from any fantasy I’d ever read before: I was originally drawn to An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir because of its quasi-Roman setting (Classics being my main academic interest), but the tense, complex story, and the wonderful characters blew me away. This is another book I reviewed, since I read it during Booktubeathon this summer, and it’s also another book with a sequel that I’m greatly anticipating; it’s been released already, but I’m waiting for it to be a little more affordable… ^^’

Leigh Bardugo//Six of CrowsNext up is Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, which was my absolute favourite book of the year, and the only one on this list that made it onto my all-time favourites list (though the others were all close calls). I was intrigued by this book when I first heard about it, but not hugely excited, since I was a little disappointed by Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy (which Six of Crows is a spin-off of), but it surpassed all my wildest dreams, and ended up being close to perfection in book-form. ❤ I read the sequel a couple of months ago, but while it was still really good, it wasn’t quite able to live up to its predecessor in my eyes.

Andrzej Sapkowski//Baptism of FireLast but by no means least is Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski (and if anyone knows how to pronounce that name, please tell me!), the fifth book in the Witcher series, which I started reading in October after getting hooked on the video games based on the books. The series started off strong, and only seemed to get better and more fascinating as it went on, culminating in the awesomeness that was Baptism of Fire; not the last book in the series, but the latest one that I’ve been able to get hold of. If this upwards trend continues, then I can’t even imagine how great the series finale will be, but it’s definitely something to look forward to in the coming year. XD