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).

 

September #Bookoplathon TBR!

Like much of the internet, I’ve been completely obsessed with TBR games recently, and with Becca’s Bookopoly in particular! So for a while I’ve been thinking about trying something similar (though way less complicated), but lo and behold! I was beaten to the chase, as Becca decided to create a Bookopoly-themed readathon! 😁 And with this round lasting for the whole month, I thought it’d be the perfect time to try it out. Here’s a link to all the information and resources for the readathon, in case any of you guys were also thinking of taking part.

THE BOARD:

MY ROLLS:

 
Dark Cover: For this prompt I decided to pick out A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, a book which I just bought and am ridiculously excited for. To be honest, I don’t know too much about this one, but it was strongly recommended to me by one of my co-workers on the basis of my extreme love for Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to love it.


Ebook or Audiobook: I’m still undecided on what I’ll read for this prompt, because although I like to have an audiobook on the go at all times, and I currently have two of them queued up for me (or I will do once I’ve finished the last few hours of my current listen), I’m not really in the mood for either of them… I would like to fulfil this prompt with an audiobook, however, so (despite my general reluctance to buy audiobooks while I still have unfinished ones waiting) I may cave and buy a new one… Otherwise, my pick for this prompt will be either The Toll by Neal Shusterman (on audio) or The Loving Cup by Winston Graham (on kindle).


Young Adult: Back to the easy choices! I don’t have a huge amount of YA on my unread shelves at the moment, but one that I’m desperate to get to soon is Loveless by Alice Oseman, which is about the complexities of asexuality, and discovering the possibility of true love in a platonic relationship.


Fire on Cover: I was going to go for The Fire in the Forging for this prompt, but in expectation of having finished (or mostly-finished) it by the time September rolls around, I decided to be strict with myself and choose something else – but not too strict! So instead I’ll be reading Batman: War Drums by (primarily, I think) Andersen Gabrych, which is a graphic novel and therefore short. 😉 Like Loveless, however, it’s not a book I packed to take on holiday with me, so I’ll have to pick it up towards the end of the month.


Community Shelf: Being lazy, I didn’t make any community cards, so I decided to search online for a random prompt generator to fulfil this roll… and I didn’t find any for reading prompts, but I did find a writing-prompt generator which I decided to use instead. The prompt I came up with was “Such a common time, this time of cruelty”, which is nice and vague, and which I’ve decided to interpret as something that I think will contain cruelty as a part of the characters’ ordinary life. So I’ve decided to go for Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, which may or may not embody this. (In any case, I’ve heard that it’s sad.)


Chance Card: Once again, being lazy, I didn’t make any specific cards to use for this square, so I decided to just pick something from my TBR jar (which contains all my unread books, both physical and digital)… and ended up with The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, which is another pretty recent purchase that I’m quite curious about. I’m not a huge fan of thrillers or mysteries, so I’m not sure how this’ll go, but hopefully the time-travel/body-swapping elements will keep me hooked. 🤞


TBR Veteran: And finally, I needed to pick out a book that’s been on my unread shelf for quite a while, of which there are quite a few… Since I’d already picked out my holiday books before deciding to participate in the Bookoplathon, though, and there was one in that stack that I’ve owned for six years already, I may as well go for Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, which is about two lovers searching for one another over the course of several lifetimes, as they’re reincarnated (I believe) over and over again.

… And we’re done! I was originally aiming for five rolls, but those two doubles landed me with seven – but this still feels like a manageable amount for me to be reading in a month. I’m also going to be on holiday for the first couple of weeks of September, so I may even be able to read more than this! (In which case I’ll do some more rolls when the time comes.) 😊 Wish me luck! 🍀

Library Scavenger Hunt: August

At long last, the Library Scavenger Hunt is back! And this time with a challenge to read a book that was written by a teenager! My initial thought was to go for Eldest by Christopher Paolini, as he couldn’t have written it too long after Eragon, but alas, he was in his twenties… But although this one was my backup book, I was by no means disappointed to be picking up Alice Oseman’s debut novel instead – which was released when she was 19.

SOLITAIRE
Alice Oseman

Tori Spring’s peaceful, pessimistic lifestyle is interrupted in Year 12 by the appearance first of maybe-crazy Michael Holden, who is, for no apparent reason, determined to be her friend, and then by Solitaire, a mysterious group that’s pulling pranks at school – pranks that seem oddly connected to Tori’s life… And as Solitaire’s actions get more alarming, she may be forced to get involved, whether she wants to or not.

This being Alice Oseman’s first novel, and (to me) not having as exciting a concept as the other two books of hers I’ve read, I wasn’t expecting to like Solitaire as much as I did Radio Silence or I Was Born for This… and I was right; I don’t think it was as good, in terms of story or execution. I did, however, still like it quite a lot! Solitaire’s pranks made for an unpredictable storyline – but more than the drama surrounding the pranks themselves, I liked Tori’s reaction to them, and the way it changed as they got more serious. The mystery element of discovering Solitaire’s identity wasn’t played up too much, but the eventual reveal was quite satisfying, too.

Tori and Michael were both quite pretentious characters, which I would probably have found annoying if the narrative and the supporting cast hadn’t been willing to call them out on it every now and then. In this case it ended up being quite amusing instead, though your milage may vary. I was also a little bit unreasonably indignant about Tori’s vehement dislike of Pride & Prejudice, but at the same time it was kind of refreshing to be reading about a YA protagonist that hates reading… 😅

The parts of the book that I found most compelling, however, were the glimpses we got into Tori’s brother Charlie’s life (and, predictably, I went and picked up all three currently-released volumes of his story, Heartstopper, at the bookshop as soon as I finished Solitaire); Oseman does a great job of making her supporting characters interesting! Charlie’s not a major character in this book, but he plays a huge role in shaping Tori’s actions and motivations… Though it wasn’t something that Oseman dwelled on, the relationship between the two of them was very sweet.

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

Mid-Year Book Freakout, 2020 edition

Though lockdown’s been pretty awful in most ways, it’s been great for my reading! I’m 13 books ahead of schedule on my Goodreads challenge, I’ve read almost my entire 2020 bucket list, and I’ve filled in all but one square on my book bingo challenge, making for 10 of a potential 12 bingos so far! 🎊 And the things that I’ve read have mostly been pretty great, too. 😊 That said, though, here are some of the highs and lows of this strange year so far, in handy tag form:

1) What’s the best book you’ve read so far in 2020?

Much to my surprise, it was I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman! Though I had very high expectations for this book when I bought it, I’ve had such terrible luck with contemporaries since then that I was very nervous about picking it up… but it turned out really great! 😁 The writing was noticeably improved from Oseman’s last book, the characters and relationships were all beautiful, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. 💕 (I was also tempted to pick the illustrated edition of Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban for this, which I read for the first time earlier this year and loved, but it’s only kind of a new-to-me book, so I don’t really feel that it qualifies…)

2) What’s the best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020?

That would be Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb, which was the finale to the Farseer Trilogy; it kept me absolutely hooked the whole way through, and ended on such a perfect note! Royal Assassin, the second book in the series, was also a contender, but although the highs of that book were very high indeed, the lows were correspondingly low, and the middle section of the book dragged a lot

3) What’s a new release that you haven’t read yet, but want to?

Loveless by Alice Oseman was just released a few days ago, and I’m eager to get my hands on it! My experience with I Was Born for This has set my expectations sky-high, so hopefully I won’t be disappointed. 🤞

4) What’s your most anticipated release for the second half of the year?

If I’d tried to do this tag a few days earlier I’d have had no idea how to answer this question, as, to be honest, I haven’t really been keeping track of new releases this year, but luckily Serpentine by Philip Pullman just got announced! And while it’s not the next volume of The Book of Dust, I’ve loved all of the His Dark Materials short stories so far, and am very much hyped. 😁

5) What’s your biggest disappointment of the year?

Probably The Princess & the Captain by Anne-Laure Bondoux, which I had had a really good feeling about for a really long time (and for no real reason whatsoever). It isn’t the worst book I’ve read this year by a long shot, but none of the other books I’ve rated low this year – most recently The King’s General and Rainforest – were ones that I had any real expectations for, so “disappointment” isn’t really the right word for them… 😑

6) And the biggest surprise?

This one’s a repeat: I Was Born for This! And I’ve already mentioned the reason why, as well, but in case you skipped it, I’ve been slowly going off contemporary novels for a while now – and it might just be that I’m picking the wrong ones, but I have a feeling otherwise. ☹️ It’s good to know, however, that there are still exceptions to my general reading taste! 👍

7) Do you have a new favourite author?

I wouldn’t call her a favourite exactly, but I finally decided to pick up a Georgette Heyer book a little while ago, and have purchased a couple more since. While her books aren’t something I’d want to be reading all the time, Arabella was the perfect pick for the moment in which I read it, and I’m hoping that I’ll feel similarly about the other ones I’ve bought… For those unfamiliar with her work, Heyer wrote regency romances (and detective novels, which I’m less interested in) in the 60s and 70s.

8) Or a new fictional crush?

I’ve got nothing for you here, I’m afraid.

9) Who’s your newest favourite character?

This was a tricky one, too, as most of the characters I’ve come across this year that I loved were ones that I loved already (for instance Fitz from the Farseer trilogy, or Nick and Lirael from the Old Kingdom series), but I decided to go for Cassandra Cain from Sarah Kuhn’s Shadow of the Batgirl (illustrated by Nicole Goux). While I first read about Cass years ago in the 2000-2009 runs of Batgirl, Kuhn’s interpretation of her is quite different, and utterly endearing. 💕

10) What book made you cry?

No book has made me properly cry in a very long time, but Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb was an incredibly emotional journey.

11) What book made you happy?

I debated a few books for this question (& Arabella and An Enchantment of Ravens were the closest competitors), but in the end I just had to pick Goldenhand by Garth Nix, which is nowhere near as good as the previous books in this series story-wise, but had so many great character moments – and made my favourite ship canon! ⚓️

12) What’s the most beautiful book you’ve bought (or been given) this year?

That would be Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg, which I bought as a present for myself not long before lockdown started. Greenberg is probably my favourite comic book author/artist, and this story, inspired by the early writings of the Brontës, is absolutely gorgeous – and a great read, too!

13) What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Well, I’ve been pretty pro-active with my 2020 bucket list (especially when compared to the ones I made for the last couple of years), but the two on it that I have yet to read are A Closed & Common Orbit by Becky Chambers – the second book in the Wayfarers series – and The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt, which I put on the list for very predictable reasons. 😅 But other than that, I’d like to continue on with Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series, the next of which is Ship of Magic, and it’d be nice to finish up The Books of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin this year as well – and since I only have a few short stories left of it, that shouldn’t be too much of a struggle. 😊

[Tag’s original creators: Earl Grey Books & ReadLikeWildfire.]

Upcoming Releases: Spring 2018

Once again, I had a pretty hard time picking out just a few books to look forward to this spring, as there seem to be a tonne of exciting things coming out in the next few months – and in particular, lots of books from series or authors that I really love… Narrow it down I did, however, so these are a few of the books I’m most excited for in March, April & May. 😁

[All dates are taken from Goodreads unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 25/2/2018.]

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (13th March)

The final book in the Illuminae Files series, in which we will be returning to Kerenza (where the first book began) and joining new protagonists Asha and Rhys. I absolutely loved Illuminae when I first read it, and although I didn’t like Gemini quite as much, I still really enjoyed it… At this point I’m not sure how I’ll take to the new protagonists, but I’m willing to give Kaufman & Kristoff the benefit of the doubt, and the likelihood of me buying this as soon as it’s available is close to 100%. Excitement level: 9/10

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green (1st May)

The first in a new high fantasy series with four main characters: a princess, a thief, a hunter, and a traitor. I know very little else about it, but since I loved Green’s Half Bad trilogy so much, I’m interested to see what she’ll be doing with what looks like a more traditional fantasy setting. Excitement level: 8/10

I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman (3rd May)

A standalone contemporary novel about the lead singer of a boyband called The Ark, and a teenage girl who owes a huge amount to her experiences as part of their fanbase. I only discovered Oseman’s writing recently, but I was super-impressed by it, so I’m really eager to see what she’s come up with next. This also sounds like its going to be more on the fluffier side of things than most of the other books on this list, but (although I wouldn’t be disappointed if that were the case) judging from Radio Silence – and, I hear, Solitaire, too – I expect that it’ll get heavier at some point. Excitement level: 6/10

Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski (22nd May)

A spin-off, standalone novel set in the Witcher universe, some time around the events of The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny (the two prequel short story collections), if I’m not mistaken. I remember being super-excited when I heard (sometime last year, I think) that Sapkowski was going to write another Witcher book, but, given that the main series has only just finished being released in English, I’m surprised that this one was translated so quickly! I’m definitely looking forward to reading it… as soon as I’m done with Lady of the Lake. 😋 Excitement level: 7/10

Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (Spoiler-Free)

With only one more year of school to go, Frances is more focused than ever on what’s been the goal of the last few years of her life: Cambridge University. And she’s well on her way to achieving it, with an excellent work ethic, consistently high grades, and the position of head girl, but very few friends who truly know her. One evening, however, a boy she knows drunkenly lets slip that he’s the mysterious creator of her favourite podcast, and they discover a friendship like neither of them have ever known… but this new relationship is tested by Aled and his podcast’s sudden rise to internet fame, and Frances’ feeling of responsibility over the disappearance of his sister, Carys.

The backdrop to this story is the podcast Universe City (a Welcome to Night Vale-esque narrative about somebody who’s trapped on a campus that’s full of monsters, and trying to escape), and the community that builds up around it. Frances’ love for the podcast is evident almost from the very beginning of the book, and I feel like it provides a really nice insight into an aspect of fan culture that I haven’t seen explored in YA lit before… That said, this book is not about Universe City, it’s about Frances and Aled, and Universe City is, more than anything else, the medium through which we are able to best know Aled.

Speaking of the characters, both Frances and Aled were fantastically written, with very relatable struggles, and I loved the way that it was only in finding each other that they were able to truly find their own selves, and their own voices; each of them only needing somebody who had no specific expectations of them in order to come out of their shells – and those shells were pretty thick… Frances had put so much effort into making herself into “Cambridge material” that realising that the other parts of her might be just as important became incredibly difficult, while Aled was trapped under layers and layers of hurt that he didn’t know how to (or, it seems, believe that he deserved to) escape from. That’s not all there was to the characters, of course, but part of the joy of reading Radio Silence, for me, was getting to know them both for myself, so I won’t say anything more about them except this: They’re both wonderful characters individually, and are made even more so by their love for each other.

And I don’t mean romantic love, by the way; that was another great thing about this book. I don’t think I would’ve minded if Oseman had decided to go the romance-route, because I loved their relationship so much, but I can’t over-emphasise how wonderful it felt to be reading a book (particularly a book for teenagers) that gave such precedence to friendship, with no expectation of (or desire for) it ever becoming anything else. And I say “else”, rather than “more”, because I feel that Oseman does a really great job of showing that friendship can be just as important a driving force in a person’s life as romance. Platonic soulmates is a term that springs to mind when I think about these two, though I’m not sure if the term was used in the book itself, or if I’m just projecting… There is a very well-executed romantic sub-plot, between Aled and another character, but it’s so far from being the focus of the story that I almost forgot to mention it.

Apart from friendship, major themes in this book included communication and its failure, of which there were ample examples on Aled’s part (whether its his attempts to reach out through Universe City which go unheard, or the inability to talk to Daniel about his feelings that’s making their relationship fall apart), and the feeling of being trapped by the expectations of others, which is demonstrated by Frances and Aled both – though in Frances’ case, the expectations that trouble her are ones that she’s actively cultivated, while Aled’s constraints are blatantly unfair. Both these themes do a lot to further flesh out characters who are already well developed and incredibly sympathetic.

You might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Carys yet, and that’s deliberate. A lot of work seems to have gone into building up her disappearance as a huge mystery, and its even implied (on the back of the book as well as in the narrative) that Frances may have somehow been involved in it – or at least knows some dark, crucial secret – but the eventual revelation is quite underwhelming, as is the solution to the (smaller) “February Friday” puzzle that’s presented in Universe City. I wouldn’t say that this is a problem with the book, exactly, as the resolution of Carys’ storyline ties in quite nicely with the rest of the book’s themes, but I do think that putting so much emphasis on it was something of a marketing misstep… There are little mysteries here and there that are interesting to see unfold, but the huge, We Were Liars-style twist that I was half expecting doesn’t exist.

I did have one problem with the book, however, and that was the extreme overuse of the word “literally”, both in Frances’ narration and the dialogue. I haven’t read Oseman’s previous book, so I’m not sure if this is just her writing style, or if it’s an attempt to accurately portray modern language (I’m aware that “literally” is a word that is often overused in real life, too), but if the former, it really should have been picked up by an editor, and if the latter, I can’t imagine why she’d choose to replicate a speech pattern that’s so irritating… Obviously, it wasn’t enough to stop me from loving this book, but extreme pedants might want to be aware of it before reading.

I only originally gave Radio Silence four stars, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it, and then it ended up being one of my top books of 2017! It’s simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, and one of the most relatable books I’ve ever come across, and I would highly recommend this book to anyone who’s even vaguely intrigued by anything I’ve said about it… I feel like I was barely able to scratch the surface with this review, even though it’s already gone on for far too long, so here are some random, leftover thoughts that I couldn’t find a place for in the main review:

  • The cast is incredibly diverse, in terms of both race and sexuality. This is also one of only two books I’ve ever read that discusses asexuality, and it does it extremely well.
  • I loved Aled so much. Frances was great, too, but Aled needs all the hugs in the world.
  • The intensity of their friendship makes me miss my own best friend even more than I already did. (She lives a long way away.)
  • I wish that every YA parent was as amazing and supportive as Frances’ mum.
  • Universe City should be a real thing, even if it’s in book form rather than a podcast. It sounds really interesting. (We got Carry On, so it’s possible, right?)
  • I may add this to my favourites list…

2017 in Review

Last year (and it’ll be strange for a while yet to be using that phrase to refer to 2017) ended up being a pretty great reading year for me, despite several not-quite-slumps, and a few very time-consuming video game obsessions. 😅 I’m still not reading at the pace that I was when I was in China (just before I decided to start this blog), but considering that I now have a considerably more active social life, and a job with far less downtime, I’m happy with both the quantity and the quality of the books that I read. I managed to complete my Goodreads Challenge, as well as all of my Reading Resolutions, which makes a huge change from 2016, where I only managed two out of ten. 😰 The My Year in Books page on Goodreads also looks as cool as ever, but I especially like that they’ve added reviews into the layout this time.

Of course, I’ve picked out a few favourites, which I’d like to say a little about (in order of reading, not preference), starting with The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke, which was not at all what I was expecting it to be, but completely blew me away. It’s a story about a woman and the robot who helped to raise her, and all the ways that their relationship shifts and changes as they grow older. I only initially gave this four stars, but I took the fact that I’m still thinking about it, and remember it so favourably as a sign that I ought to bump it up to a five-star rating.

The next book was definitely the best book I read in 2017: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie! This book not only defied my expectations, but completely blew them out of the water. It tells the story of a soldier called Breq who used to be part of the consciousness of a sentient starship, and is now on a mission to avenge the destruction of herself (kind of). It’s very strange conceptually, but I found the characters, the plot, and the intergalactic society that Leckie created completely enchanting, and I can’t wait to finish the series (after which I will be deciding whether this book specifically, or the series as a whole, will make it onto my all-time favourites list)!

And third is Radio Silence by Alice Oseman, which I finished reading on Boxing Day evening, so it’s a very recent addition to the list. It’s a British contemporary novel about a girl who’s always been super-focused on her academic performance, but secretly loves a strange podcast called Universe City, whose creator is a complete mystery – until one day an acquaintance of hers drunkenly reveals himself to be the mysterious “Radio Silence”. Plot-wise, this book was probably quite weak, but I loved it for its characters, who I identified with very strongly, as well as its homage to fan-culture (of the podcasts and fan-art variety), which read very much like a love letter. 💕

Lastly, here’s a round-up of my resolutions, which (as I previously mentioned) went  really well:

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

2) Read 1 non-fiction book:

  • Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks [review linked above]

3) Read 10 adult/literary novels:

4) Read 3 classics or modern classics:

  • Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen [review linked above]
  • Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne [review linked above]
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen [review linked above]

5) Read 5 books that showcase cultures different to my own:

6) Read 5 comics, manga or graphic novels (each series can only count once):

7) Read 10 short stories (not including spin-off novellas):

  • Nora’s Song by Cecelia Holland (from the Dangerous Women anthology)
  • Odd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
  • The Hands That Are Not There by Melinda Snodgrass (DW)
  • Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughan (DW)
  • Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale (DW)
  • Neighbors by Megan Lindholm (DW)
  • I Know How to Pick ‘Em by Lawrence Block (DW)
  • Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson (DW)
  • A Queen in Exile by Sharon Kay Penman (DW)
  • Midnights by Rainbow Rowell (from the My True Love Gave to Me anthology)

8) Read 5 books that were given or lent to me:

  • Odd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
  • The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman [review]
  • Wild Lily by K.M. Peyton [review]
  • The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke [review linked above]
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [review linked above]

9) Finish reading 3 DNF books:

  • Now I Rise by Kiersten White
  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld [review linked above]
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen [review linked above]

10) Finish or catch up on 5 series that I started before the beginning of the year:

December Wrap-Up

Happy New Year, everyone! The last month of 2017 was, for me, full of shopping and baking, an awful lot of eating, and – of course – lots and lots of books. Most of what I read was actually short stories, as I was trying to tick off the last of my reading challenges for the year, but still, I did a lot more reading in the last month than I have in a while. 😊 In total, I managed to read three novels, and eight short stories (and, yes, I did manage to complete that challenge 🎊).

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally. The first book in the Hundred Oaks series, a collection of contemporary books that share a setting, but have largely disconnected stories and lead characters… I had high hopes for this series as another set of cute contemporaries – this time with a sports focus, which I seem to be susceptible to 😅 – but I probably would have been better off just re-reading Now & Then (by Emma Mills), which is just a better book all around. It was quite cute, but the characters were all pretty bland, and the story and romance were both completely predictable. I doubt I’ll be reading any more from this series.Bombshells by Jim Butcher.Dresden Files novella that I found in the Dangerous Women anthology, which follows Harry Dresden’s apprentice Molly on what she thinks is a mission to rescue a vampire who’s being held hostage – but she quickly realises that she’s only been told a small fraction of the true story. I found the plot of this quite interesting, but, as someone who’s only read the tiniest bit of The Dresden Files (volume 1 of one of the graphic novel adaptations) and barely remembers it, most of the finer details were lost on me… I definitely think that this is a story that is aimed at people who already know the series, though it does still make an enjoyable standalone.Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughn. A short story from the Dangerous Women anthology about a Soviet fighter pilot during the second world war, who’s aiming for the five kills she needs in order to be recognised as an ace fighter, but is held back by worry for her brother, who’s recently been declared missing in action. As is the case with many short stories, I enjoyed this, but found that there wasn’t really enough of it for me to find something to get really invested in. Raisa was an interesting character, and seeing the air force from the perspective of a female pilot was also interesting… Given everything that she was going through, however, I was surprised that the narrative was so fast-paced and action-oriented…Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale. Another short story from Dangerous Women, though in this case the titular dangerous woman didn’t have much of an active role in the story; the main character is a teenager called Marvin who’s having problems with bullies, and ends up being taken under the wing of a surprisingly tough old man, who turns out to be a former wrestler. These days, he only fights once every five years though, against a rival who’s in love with the same woman… Despite my dislike for wrestling, I really liked this story; it’s definitely one of my favourites so far from this anthology. Marvin was a great, relatable lead, and the old man (usually called by his stage name X-Man) offered both wisdom and comedy… I was more interested in Marvin’s situation with the bullies than with X-Man & Jesus’ rivalry, but both parts were very entertaining. 👍 (Also, major Karate Kid vibes, especially in the first half.)Neighbors by Megan Lindholm. A short story (also from Dangerous Women) about an old woman called Sarah whose neighbour disappears one foggy night. Sarah witnesses Linda’s departure, but when she later sees strangers in the streets wearing Linda’s distinctive backpack, nobody believes her. Meanwhile, believing her to be unable to care for herself any longer, Sarah’s two children try to persuade her to sell her house and move into an assisted living home… A powerful and moving (and also quite sad) take on growing old, with a touch of magical realism, and an incredibly unreliable narrator. Lindholm’s writing was beautiful, and made me feel really connected to Sarah, which is an impressive feat in a story that’s less than fifty pages long. Definitely a hit!

I Know How to Pick ‘Em by Lawrence Block. A man and a woman meet in a bar, and the woman takes the man home with her, hoping that she can entice him to help her sort out a little problem, but unfortunately he’s already guessed at her plan, and has one of his own. This short story (from Dangerous Women) was an interesting look into the minds of two terrible people (neither named); one incredibly selfish, and the second – from whose perspective the story is told – deeply disturbed. And Block’s narrative cleverly makes it so that it takes a while to realise exactly how awful each of the characters (but particularly the second one) truly is… I don’t know if I’d say that I enjoyed this, but it definitely got me thinking.Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson. A short story from Dangerous Women which is set in the world of Cosmere, and tells the tale of an innkeeper and her daughter, who live in the middle of a dangerous forest filled with spirits, and secretly hunt down criminals who cross their path. Sanderson’s worldbuilding is always top-notch, and this story was no exception to that rule; he was really able to bring the forest and all its dangers to life. The plot was really intriguing, too, and I really liked both the main characters, Silence and William Ann… I believe there are more Cosmere books, but I definitely feel that this story can stand alone.Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot. The final book in the Princess Diaries series, set several years after the conclusion of the main series, and documenting Mia’s adult life, where her main thoughts have shifted from Michael, her domineering grandmother, Michael, and the difficulty of being a teenage princess, to Michael, her still domineering grandmother, Michael, and the difficulty of being a no-longer-teenage princess… So, Mia is still the same person she’s always been, and I kind of love her for it. And also find her hilarious. 😂 This book was very much a blast from the past, and I enjoyed it immensely; I hadn’t realised quite how much I’d missed Mia and all her crazy worries. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so you can find a full review of it here.A Queen in Exile by Sharon Kay Penman. A historical short story (from Dangerous Women) about Queen Constance of Sicily, with a focus on her husband’s invasion of her homeland, and the birth of her son (Frederick II, who would go on to become the Holy Roman Emperor). This was an interesting story, but I’m not sure how much I actually liked Constance’s voice, and Penman’s writing style was rather matter-of-fact… I am, however, somewhat curious to read some of her other books, so clearly it wasn’t actually all that off-putting. 😉

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell. Snapshots of a pair of friends during the countdown to every New Year they’ve experienced together. This was a really cute little story (from the anthology My True Love Gave to Me, for a change! 😋); not as good as Kindred Spirits, Rowell’s other short story, but that one sets the bar pretty high. The characters were well fleshed-out, however, and the snapshots of them year after year showed the progression of their relationship brilliantly.Radio Silence by Alice Oseman. My final book of the year follows a sixth-former called Frances, who is focused on doing well at school to the exclusion of almost everything else – until one evening a boy she knows accidentally reveals himself to her as the creator of her favourite podcast, Universe City, which tells the tale of a person stuck in a strange, monster-ridden university campus. I heard briefly about this book a while ago, but wasn’t really all that interested in reading it until I found it on a list of books with confirmed asexual characters, something that there isn’t nearly enough of in the literary world as a whole, let alone YA… But I’m really glad that I decided to pick this up, as it connected with me on so many levels, even disregarding the asexuality issues that it brings up (briefly; that’s not the focus of the book by a long shot). I’ll be posting a review soon (once I’ve got all my New Year posts out of the way), so keep an eye out for that, but in short: An amazing book, and definitely one of my favourites of 2017.