August Wrap-Up

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

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

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

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

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Upcoming Releases: Autumn 2017

The next few months seem to be choc-a-bloc with great new books I could mention here… but in the interest of not letting this list go on forever, I’ve picked out a few that I’m most excited for, or intrigued by that will be released in September, October & November

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 28/08/2017.]

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken (5th September)

This might seem like an odd choice, since although I like Alexandra Bracken’s work, I’m not a die-hard fan… but something about The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding just sounds incredibly charming to me. It seems to be about an unremarkable boy from a family with a history of being anything but, who finds out one day that he’s sharing headspace with a demon. The impression I’m getting is a mix of Naruto and A Series of Unfortunate Events, which would make for an interesting combination! I’ll have to wait and see, however; the early reviews for this book have been somewhat mixed… Excitement level: 6/10

Provenance by Ann Leckie (28th September)

I only read my first one of Ann Leckie’s books recently (Ancillary Justice), but I was so blown away by it that I couldn’t help but add this to my “most anticipated” list as soon as I found out that it was going to be a thing… What I can tell about it so far: deep space and thievery. What I assume about it from my experience with Leckie’s writing thus far: complicated politics, rich world-building and great characters and plot. What I haven’t been able to discern: whether or not this is set in the same universe as the Imperial Radch books… 😓 So I likely won’t be picking it up until I’ve finished those books first (which will hopefully be very soon!). Excitement level: 8/10

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (3rd October)

The Prisoner of Azkaban has been out for years, of course, but Harry Potter fans (who seem to make up the majority of the world’s population) are bound to know already that Bloomsbury has been re-releasing new, beautifully-illustrated (by Jim Kay) editions of all the books… and this year is the turn of my favourite book in the series! The art for the last two books was amazing, so I can’t wait to see what this one will look like! 😆 Excitement level: 10/10

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman (19th October)

The first of the three-volume Book of Dust, which takes place in the His Dark Materials universe, though it follows a new set of characters. I don’t know much more about this book than that; I really don’t need to, as I am sure to buy it anyway, and I doubt very much that I won’t enjoy it. Like many others, I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book for years, so naturally, I’m very excited that it’s finally (almost) here! Excitement level: 10/10

Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce (31st October)

It’s been so long since I read anything new from Tamora Pierce! So even though this seems to be a dossier-style book (along the lines of The Artemis Fowl Files or The Demigod Files), rather than a whole new novel, I will undoubtedly devour it. Hopefully, like the other two books I mentioned, there will also be a short story or two in the mix… Excitement level: 7/10

Library Scavenger Hunt: August

This month has been so busy! I was afraid for a while that I wasn’t going to be able to complete the August challenge (read a book with two of something on the cover) at all – which would’ve been a shame, as I was really proud that I came up with this idea. (Obviously, my fears were unfounded, or I wouldn’t be writing this.) So without further ado, the book I picked out this month was…

ANCILLARY JUSTICE
Ann Leckie

Nineteen years ago, Justice of Toren was an Imperial troop carrier; an enormous starship with hundreds of human ancilliaries whose eyes she could see through and bodies she could act through all at once. Now there is only Breq, a single fragment of her former self, with no other bodies, or eyes, or voices. But if she’s lucky, her long mission may be nearing its end, and although it will not right the wrongs that were done all those years ago, it will bring them into the light.

If that summary was a bit nonsensical, it’s because this is a very difficult book to describe. I struggled a lot with the first few chapters, not because anything particularly confusing was going on, but because the idea of a protagonist who is simultaneously both an individual and a collective was a tough one to wrap my head around. There were several places early on in the book where I was taken aback by what seemed to be a sudden, jarring time-skip or change of scene (sometimes even in mid-conversation), only to realise afterwards that Breq/One Esk (Justice of Toren One Esk being Breq’s true name) was actually just looking through one of her other sets of eyes… My confusion was short-lived, however, and it’s a testament to Leckie’s skill as a writer that I was able to adjust to it so quickly, as it’s such a baffling concept.

It was also completely worth any initial struggle on my part. Ancilliary Justice is one of the best books I’ve read all year, and the best sci-fi I’ve read in even longer. Breq’s perspective was fascinating, both of the alternating timelines were entirely (and equally) gripping, and the the world that Leckie has built for this series is incredibly rich and detailed. Her use of gender was also really interesting, and Breq’s frustration whenever she needed to stop and consider it when she (as someone who is part of a gender-neutral society) had to speak to anyone in a language that specifies gender was kind of charming.

For me, however, the best thing about this book was its characters and the relationships between them. I’ve already talked about Breq, but Lieutenant Awn was wonderful, too, and although (like Breq) I really didn’t like Seivarden much when she was first introduced, it was really incredible how much she grew as a character as the story went on; by the end of the book, I liked her just as much as the much more generally likeable Awn… And the sharp contrast between how One Esk interacted with Lieutenant Awn and Seivarden was another thing that I really enjoyed; both relationships almost brought me to tears (of sadness/joy/laughter) in several places. Needless to say, I will be continuing on with this series at the earliest opportunity – I can’t wait to pick up Ancillary Sword!

[Find out more about the Library Scavenger Hunt by following this link!]

T5W: Second = Best

Second books get a lot of criticism. If a series started out strong, then they have a lot to live up to, and sometimes they can seem like just a whole book’s worth of filler before a (hopefully) epic final novel… but I actually tend to really like them; with quite a few of my favourite series, I end up liking the second book best. 😊 So, naturally, I was thrilled to discover that this week’s Top 5 Wednesday theme was second books… Here’s my (heavily abridged) list:

5) A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas

This may be a bit of a cheat, since I haven’t finished the series yet, and so can’t know for sure whether A Court of Mist & Fury will be my favourite, but I couldn’t help including it here, simply because it was such a dramatic improvement over the first book… I liked A Court of Thorns & Roses, but the more I thought about it after I finished it, the more underwhelmed I felt; I was somewhat reluctant to even pick the sequel up, despite all the amazing things I’d been hearing about it… but, wow, was this book a huge step up. If you’re not sure about this series after book one, then rest assured that it’s worth it (so far🤞).

4) Lirael by Garth Nix

Nix’s Old Kingdom series is fantastic as a whole, but as much as I loved Sabriel and Touchstone in the first book, Lirael’s character arc in this book has always stuck with me. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that the new storyline that Lirael began was fantastic, and she had a wonderful set of sidekicks in Sam, Nick, and the Disreputable Dog. 😋

3) Half Wild by Sally Green

Not a huge amount happens in Half Wild compared to the other two books in the trilogy, so this may be something of an odd choice, but what I really love about this book is how, with the action slowed down, there was so much character and relationship development. In particular, there was some really amazing exploration of Nathan’s relationship with his estranged father Marcus, as well as his two potential love interests, Gabriel and Annalise…

2) Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire is the second book in the Graceling Realm trilogy, and seems to be a lot of people’s least favourite entry… It’s certainly very different from the other two books – it’s even set in a different world! Kind of. But although I found the transition between books quite jarring (I wasn’t even expecting the change in protagonists, and that’s the least of the changes from Graceling), I very quickly became attached to the new characters, their world, and I loved how much this book effected the other two, despite their apparent disconnect… 💕

1) The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials is such an incredible series, and deserves all the praise it’s ever received and more; it’s exciting, thought-provoking, heart-breaking, beautifully written… Naturally, I love all three books in the trilogy, and the spin-off novellas, and I’m eagerly awaiting The Book of Dust. But Will’s introduction, and how our own world was pulled into this story with him, is what makes me love The Subtle Knife so much. (It also gave me what was probably my first ever OTP. Lyra & Will forever. 😭)

And an honourable mention for Street Magic by Tamora Pierce, which is one of my favourite books of all time, and also the second book in The Circle Opens quartet… which is itself a follow-up to the Circle of Magic series. I didn’t include it on the main list mostly because I tend to think of it as being a sixth book rather than a second, but this is also a series that people should definitely read! 🙏

(Also, in no particular order: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta, The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick,  Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson… and probably about a hundred more. But I’ll stop here, for the sake of all our sanity.)

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

May-July Haul

My book-buying ban has somewhat derailed, I’m afraid, but at the end of last month it was still going strong, and so I only have seven books to show you in this post, several of which were gifts, and all but one of which I have already read (incredibly. I’ve never known myself to read things so promptly after buying/receiving them!). In any case, here they are:

1) Geekerella by Ashley Poston. A super-cute love story between die-hard fans of Starfield, a fictional Star Trek-esque TV show, which jumped straight to the top of my to-buy list almost as soon as I discovered that it existed. 💕 I’ve already read this book, and you can find my review of it here.

2) We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. An essay about why feminism is (or should be) important to everyone. This book was a gift from my friend Grace, who just so happened to have a spare copy lying around, and kindly offered it to me when I off-handedly mentioned that I’d been meaning to read it for a while… 😁 I didn’t write a full review for this one, but you can find my thoughts on it in my June wrap-up.

3) Bee & Puppycat, Volume 1 by Natasha Allegri & Garrett Jackson. A cute comic book about a girl and her alien/cat/puppy flatmate, doing bizarre temp jobs. I bought this on a whim when it appeared at the second-hand bookshop where I work, entirely due to the cuteness of the art and Natasha Allegri’s name on the cover… And although I liked the book, it’s not a series that I think I’ll be continuing with. ☹️ Not pictured because I re-donated it a few days ago; my review is here.

4) The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts. A beautiful and amazing book of art from the Legend of Zelda series, which was a birthday present from my best friend Chloë (who also gave me Hyrule Historia – which Art & Artifacts accompanies – for Christmas last year!). As it’s an art book, it’s not really the kind of thing to be read cover-to-cover, but I have spent a significant amount of time staring at it, and can confirm that it is a thing of wonder. 😍

5) Now I Rise by Kiersten White. The sequel to And I Darken, which is about a young Vlad the Impaler, had he been born a woman. This is the only book on this list that I haven’t finished reading yet (I’m currently about a quarter of the way through it, but I keep getting distracted by life – and readathons), but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read so far, & I hope to get round to continuing it soon. I really can’t recommend this series enough. 😊

6) Once & for All by Sarah Dessen. The latest of Dessen’s teen romances, which I bought – along with Now I Rise, as they were both on buy-one-get-one-half-price at Waterstones – right before going on holiday to Skye. I was actually intending to finish this book before I left, but didn’t quite make it, and so it came with me on my trip, and was very much enjoyed. 😋 Not my favourite of Dessen’s books, but an amazing read nonetheless… you can find my review here.

7) Calum’s Road by Roger Hutchinson. The last book I acquired in July was a birthday present from my sister Helen, the biography of a man called Calum MacLeod, who build a two-mile road between Brochel Castle and South Arnish in Raasay, with only a wheelbarrow, shovel, pickaxe, and his own two hands. Biographies are not usually my thing, but this was an incredible story – which I’ve reviewed here. (Also not in the picture, because I lent it back to Heli to read almost as soon as I’d finished it myself, but this is definitely a book I’ll be keeping. 👍)

July Wrap-Up

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

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

  

  

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

#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