Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

I’ve been seeing this tag floating around quite a lot recently, and – since I’m not really feeling the reviews at the moment – I thought it might make an interesting post. Also, it’s the middle of the year, and “freaking out” is a pretty accurate way to describe my attitude towards books right now, even though, unusually, I’m ahead on my Goodreads challenge! 🎉

lois mcmaster bujold a civil campaign1. What’s the best book you’ve read so far in 2019?

A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold, which I just read a couple of weeks ago! I stumbled across the massive Vorkosigan Saga at the beginning of the year, and have been obsessed with it ever since… and the books just keep getting better and better! A Civil Campaign is my favourite so far, by a small margin.

2. What’s the best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019?

Well, as above (closely followed by Memory, from the same series), but in the interest of not spending the whole of this tag gushing over the same few books… I thought that The Wicked King by Holly Black was also a really great follow-up to The Cruel Prince, and improved on it in basically every way. I can’t wait to see how the trilogy is going to wrap up! 😊

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

My book-buying ban combined with my new Vorkosigan Saga obsession has meant that there are quite a few of these, but the one that stings the most is probably The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie… I keep going into bookshops and staring longingly at it on the shelves, which really isn’t helping, but maybe I’ll get some book money for my birthday, or something. 🤞 I really loved Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, & am dying to see what she’ll do with the fantasy genre.

rainbow rowell wayward son4. What’s your most anticipated release for the second half of the year?

That would be Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell! Rowell seems very much to me to be in the business of wish-fulfilment; when I read Fangirl, I couldn’t help thinking how much I wanted to read a read Simon Snow book, and when Carry On (one of my all-time favourite books) came into existence, all I wanted was a sequel… and now we’re getting that, too! 24th September, wait for me! 😆 (I’m also very excited for The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman, but my hype for it isn’t quite so extreme.)

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

Definitely Starfall by Melissa Landers. It’s not the worst book I’ve read this year, but it was such a let-down after the first book in the series, which at the time of reading was close to a favourite. Worst of Starfall‘s crimes, though, is that it’s kind of tainted Starflight by association… What if it was never as good as I thought it was?! 😣

6. And the biggest surprise?

Probably Before Adam by Jack London, which I wasn’t expecting to like at all, but actually turned out to be pretty gripping. I posted a review of this book recently that talks more about the whys-and-wherefores, but in short: I found the entire premise off-putting, but clearly should’ve had more faith in London’s ability to spin a good story.

7. Do you have a new favourite author?

I do! Lois McMaster Bujold, the author of the Vorkosigan Saga! My aunt mentioned her to me over Christmas as a reputedly really excellent fantasy writer, and upon looking her up I was vaguely interested in trying some of her works (though the sci-fi appealed to me more than the fantasy, surprisingly), and then I stumbled across one of her books (Young Miles) second-hand in January… Naturally, I picked it up, but I wasn’t expecting to love it nearly as much as I did. Bujold hasn’t just become a favourite author of 2019 for me, but an all-time favourite, for sure.

8. Or a new fictional crush?

This one not so much, I’m afraid. The Vorkosigan Saga is full of incredibly charming characters, but I don’t think I’d call any of them crushes, exactly…

9. Who’s your newest favourite character?

Miles Vorkosigan~! 💕 He pulls you in like he’s a planet; it’s inevitable. 😉 But really, this series has given me so many new favourite characters, Miles is only the most blindingly brilliant of them. Others include: Ivan and Gregor, Miles’ mother Cordelia, Mark and Kareen, and most recently the wonderful Ekaterin, who came as a(nother) huge surprise to me, and I might even have come to like even more than Miles himself…!? (Maybe. Don’t hold me to that; I haven’t made my mind up yet.)

Honorary mentions as well to Midoriya and Todoroki from the My Hero Academia series, the manga of which I started this year, although I was already familiar with their anime counterparts…

10. What book made you cry?

I think the last book that made me cry actual tears was The Book Thief, and I read that, what, five years ago now? I’m not holding my breath for another one any time soon… but of this year’s reads, The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa has definitely come the closest.

11. What book made you happy?

A fair few. 😊 A Civil Campaign probably made me the happiest, but I also really loved the ridiculously fluffy Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett.

satoru noda golden kamuy vol 212. What’s the most beautiful book you’ve bought (or been given) this year?

This may be a slightly weird answer, but I think it’s probably Golden Kamuy, Volume 2 by Satoru Noda. None of the (admittedly few) books I’ve obtained this year have been fancy special editions, or anything, but I really like Noda’s art style, and the picture of Asirpa on the second volume is particularly pretty. Click on the cover for a (much) closer look! ☞ ☞ ☞

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

So many books! All of the books! More specifically, though: I’ve only read two of the eight books on my 5-star predictions list, which I promised myself I’d read this year (those being Uprooted and Lies We Tell Ourselves), but of the remaining six, the ones I’m most anxious to get to are Eon by Alison Goodman and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Otherwise, I’d really like to finish Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series soon, if only so that I can finally move on to the other Shadowhunters books…

eon alison goodman madeleine miller the song of achilles cassandra clare city of lost souls cassandra clare city of heavenly fire

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

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February Wrap-Up

In a shocking turn of events, I managed to read seven whole books in February (as well as most of an eighth), despite it being a short month, and my being busy with work and friends – and the various podcasts I’ve managed to get myself hooked on… ^^’ A lot of these books are ones that I’ve been really eager to read, too, and I’m happy to say that they invariably lived up to (or surpassed) my expectations! XD Here’s what I read:

Michael Morpurgo//Kensuke's KingdomKensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo. A young boy – Michael – gets shipwrecked on an island, and meets an old man who was also wrecked there during the Second World War, and has been living alone ever since. A quick-paced and engaging read, with a great pair of lead characters. 🙂 Like most of Morpurgo’s books, there was a point in the story where it got very sad, and in this case it was the story of how Kensuke ended up on the island – not coincidentally, this was probably my favourite part of the book, along with the bits of Michael’s travel journal that we got to see before the shipwreck. I do wish, however, that Morpurgo wouldn’t include the author’s notes in his books that imply that they’re true stories; parts of Kensuke’s Kingdom may have been inspired by truth, but it’s definitely not the case that Morpurgo was shipwrecked as a child, and lived on an island with a group of orang-utang and an elderly Japanese man for a year… He did this in the introduction of War Horse, too (though to a lesser degree), and it’s beginning to feel a bit like a Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf situation… :/3 starsAlison Goodman//The Dark Days PactThe Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman. The second book in the Lady Helen series, which I’ve been obsessing over since reading The Dark Days Club last April – and this sequel really lived up to its predecessor, as well as my (ridiculously high) expectations! I’ve posted a review of The Dark Days Pact already, which you can find here, if you so desire, but in short, the only reason this book isn’t on my favourites list already is that I have an amazing feeling that the third book in the series will be even better! XD5 starsElise Kova//Air AwakensAir Awakens by Elise Kova. The first book in the Air Awakens series, which follows a young woman who works as an apprentice in the palace library, until one day she saves the life of the crown prince, and accidentally creates a magical bond between them in the process. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting from this series, but I had a lot of fun reading this first book (which reminded me a lot in tone – and worldbuilding – of Avatar: the Last Airbender; a very favourable comparison, I promise 😉 ). The plot itself seemed rather simple, but it does seem to be laying a thorough groundwork for the rest of the series… I really loved all the characters, too, and fell completely in love with the world. I’m working on a review at the moment, which ought to be posted in the very near future.4 starsEmma Haughton//Cruel Heart BrokenCruel Heart Broken by Emma Haughton. A contemporary novel about a teenage girl called Laurie, who’s being torn apart by a big secret that she’s keeping from her family and friends. Her former best friend Charlie has done something he regrets, too, and it may already be too late for either of them to fix things. A hard-hitting, but also quite hopeful story, which I liked much more than I expected to… This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for February, so (once again), I have a more detailed review of it up already; you can find it here.4 starsWild Lily//K.M. PeytonWild Lily by K.M. Peyton. A wonderful, enchanting novel set in the 20s about a young man called Antony who demands an aeroplane for his birthday, and Lily, a spirited young girl who’s willing to do pretty much anything to get him to see her worth. Such nostalgia! (Even though this book is in no way related to the Flambards series.) I loved Lily and Antony both so much, and the aeroplane scenes were amazing! I’ve said a few times before that K.M. Peyton is the author who first made me love aeroplanes, and Wild Lily really spoke to (and re-invigourated) that love. The very matter-of-fact writing style took a little while to get back into, so I was initially a little worried that I wouldn’t like this book that much, but once I managed it, I was hooked. ❤ My brief description doesn’t really do the story or characters justice, but I do intend to post a proper review of this book, too – look out for it soon!4 starsJ.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (illustrated edition). The second book in the Harry Potter series, which I’ve been re-reading along with the Harry Potter & the Sacred Text podcast. This is actually my least favourite book in the series, but I still loved it, and Jim Kay’s beautiful illustrations really enhanced my reading experience this time around. If I have one criticism, then it would just be that there seemed to be a lot less illustrations in Chamber of Secrets than in the illustrated edition of the Philosopher’s Stone… and also the sheer number of – very realistic! – pictures of spiders. 😥5 stars

Renée Ahdieh//The Wrath & the DawnThe Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh. Thie first book in a duology that retells the story of A Thousand and One Nights, where a young woman named Shahrzad volunteers to marry the murderous king of Khorasan in order to avenge her best friend – his previous wife, whom he killed the morning after their marriage. This book was being super hyped-up a short while ago, so I didn’t want to go into it with my expectations so high that they could never be met, but I have to say, The Wrath & the Dawn blew way past everything I expected. I loved all the characters, and the stories that Shahrzad told Khalim in order to delay her own death (though there weren’t as many of them as I expected), and the overarching plot of the series seems to be moving in a really gripping direction. If I had one complaint, it would be that at the beginning of the book I felt the need to rush through Tariq’s chapters in order to return to Shahrzad’s storyline (i.e. what I was actually interested in), but that’s more to do with how addictive the Shahrzad chapters were than anything to do with Tariq’s storyline itself – and I did get pretty invested in it eventually. ^^’5 stars

Review: The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman (Spoiler-Free)

Alison Goodman//The Dark Days Pact[Warning: This is a spoiler-free review, but I will be referring to some events from The Dark Days Club, so if you haven’t started the series at all yet, beware. You can find my review of The Dark Days Club here.]

After breaking off her betrothal and being disowned by her uncle, Lady Helen is spending the summer season in Brighton, playing the invalid in order to avoid society, and training for her new role in the Dark Days Club with her mentor Lord Carlston. All things considered, life isn’t going terribly for her – that is, until Mr. Pike (a representative of the new Home Secretary) arrives in Brighton, convinced that Carlston is going mad, and demanding that Helen fulfil a dangerous task for him, or face charges of treason.

Well, I thought that there was a lot going on in the first book, but this one really escalates everything! So much happened; that little introductory passage barely even scratches the surface! ^^’ And yet it also manages to completely side-step the trap of having so much happening at once that it becomes impossible to follow along. The writing is remarkably clear, and has the same addictive quality as in the previous book. I also really loved how much research went into this book – the location and time period both feel incredibly real, but at the same time, I never felt as if the historical details were being shoved in my face; they were just there in the background, enriching the atmosphere.

In terms of characters, I really loved the way that many of the characters from The Dark Days Club were further developed, particularly Mr. Hammond and Lady Helen herself, as well as Lord Carlston, who remains something of a mystery, but is clearly beginning to lower his guard. The new characters were brilliant as well: Lowry was completely despicable, the Comte d’Antraigues was fascinating, and although I spent much of the book despising Pike, I ended up really loving the way his role in the story played out. Duke Selburn is the other major player in The Dark Days Pact, and while I quite liked him in the first book, I’m beginning to find the way he inserts himself into Helen’s affairs quite irritating (and it seems that Helen is, too), however well-intentioned he may be. I’m definitely looking forward to how his character, and his relationship with Helen, develops in the sequel (or sequels, maybe? I certainly hope so!).

The one thing that I was really hoping wouldn’t happen somehow ended up happening in the last few pages of the book, which was not entirely unexpected, but a bit sad. I will have to wait and see, however, if Helen is able to at least escape from the consequences of it in the next book. And I did feel that the mystery of Lady Elise was a little underwhelming, and brushed aside too quickly, but this is pretty much the only thing that the book didn’t do brilliantly, and it does seem like the issue is likely to come up again in future instalments in the series.

On the other hand, the story itself was masterfully executed, with what felt like a thousand twists and turns, each one more heart-poundingly difficult than the last. I’ve become ridiculously invested in this series, and I almost wish that I hadn’t read it straight away, as I now have a whole year to wait for the next book (such agony!). 😥
5 stars

January Haul

It feels like it’s been a while since I obtained enough books in a single month to justify writing a dedicated haul, but I just about made it in January. And, amazingly, I still haven’t broken my book-buying ban! (I’m allowing myself to buy one book for every five that I read, but that doesn’t include gifts, and I had a couple of book-credits saved up before Christmas, so…) I have four books to show you this time, & I’m super-excited about them all; let me know if you’ve read any of them!january haul 2017

1) The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg. A graphic novel set in the same universe as The Encyclopedia of Early Earth – probably my favourite graphic novel of all time! XD I read this as soon as I got hold of it, so you can find all my thoughts on it in last month’s wrap-up, but in short, Greenberg’s work is as beautiful and charming as ever.

2) My Ideal Bookshelf. A collection of bookshelves, put together by a variety of people from different walks of life (most of whom I haven’t heard of, though I am familiar with a few of them), made up of the books that shaped their lives. Each section is about a page long, and is accompanied by a hand drawn picture (by Jane Mount) of the books they picked. The collection is edited by Thessaly La Force.

3) Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes. The first book in a series of the same name, which is set in a world where every child grows up with a creature called a darkbeast magically bound to them, which takes in all the darkness inside them before being ritually killed. I’d never heard of either the series or the author before stumbling across this book, but the concept sounds super-interesting, and it was blurbed by Tamora Pierce (my favourite author!), so my expectations are reasonably high. 🙂

4) The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman. The sequel to The Dark Days Club, one of my favourite books from last year! My sister pre-ordered me this as a Christmas present, and I picked it up as soon as it arrived on my doorstep; so far, it’s definitely living up to its predecessor! 😀

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

Upcoming Releases: Winter 2016-17

The last three months have clearly been so packed with new releases that the publishing companies need a break… but there are still a few books coming out in December, January & February to get excited over. I’m definitely excited, and am likely to be buying at least the final two books on this list as soon as they’re available, if not all three! 🙂

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 23/11/2016.]

Genevieve Cogman//The Burning PageThe Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman (15th December)

The third book in the Invisible Library series, which is about a librarian called Irene, who travels between worlds in order to collect rare books to be studied and preserved in the mysterious Library. I’m not up to date on this series at all, but if the first book is anything to go by, The Burning Page will be a thrilling ride, full of intrigue, disguises, brilliant literary references, and one of the most interesting magic systems I’ve ever come acrossExcitement level: 6/10

Alison Goodman//The Dark Days PactThe Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman (26th January)

The second book in the Lady Helen series, which will (I presume) follow Helen’s adventures as an official member of the Dark Days Club. I’m hoping to see a lot more Lord Carlston, too, and maybe we’ll even get to unravel a few of the (very intriguing) mysteries that surround him. The Dark Days Club was one of the most fun books I read last year, so I have very high hopes for this sequel. Excitement level: 10/10

Melissa Landers//StarfallStarfall by Melissa Landers (7th February)

This book doesn’t appear to be a direct sequel to Starflight – the amazing feel-good space adventure that came out earlier this year – but it does follow arguably the most interesting character in that book, Cassia, and the aftermath of a very dramatic revelation that came near the end of the story. Excitement level: 8/10

April Haul

You remember what I’ve been saying for the last couple of months, about how impressed I’ve been by my self-control? Well… so much for that! 😳 I went a little crazy last month – all but one of these (fifteen!) books was bought on impulse, and while I’ve read a few of them already (and really enjoyed them), it’s still a little embarrassing to see them all together like this… Does this mean that book hauls might be good for me?! Shock therapy, maybe? 😉 But regardless, here’s what I bought in April:

April haul 20161) Half Lost by Sally Green. The final book in the Half Life trilogy, which I’ve absolutely loved – and this conclusion was well worth the wait! I still didn’t like it quite as much as Half Wild (the second book in the series), but it wrapped up the series really well… and kind of broke my heart. 😥

2) The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman. The first book in the Lady Helen series, which is set in Regency London, and is about hunting demons! (Some of my favourite things! It’s almost like it was written specifically for me! 😉 ) I’ve already read this one, too, and you can read my full review here!

3) Across the Universe by Beth Revis. The first book in the Across the Universe series, which is a space opera, I believe… I don’t actually know much about this book, but I’ve heard that it’s very good, and I’ve been dying to read it for quite a while… It’ll happen soon, I hope.

4) The Melancholy of Haruhi SuzumiyaThe Sigh of Haruhi SuzumiyaThe Boredom of Haruhi SuzumiyaThe Disappearance of Haruhi SuzumiyaThe Rampage of Haruhi SuzumiyaThe Wavering of Haruhi SuzumiyaThe Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya, The Indignation of Haruhi SuzumiyaThe Dissociation of Haruhi Suzumiya & The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa. The entire, ten-book Haruhi Suzumiya series, which is best known in the West for its anime adaptation, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The series follows a high schooler called Kyon, who gets dragged by chance into the chaotic world of his classmate Haruhi, who has (unbeknownst to her) the power to destroy the world if she ever gets tired of it… These books are pretty wacky, but I’ve read the first one already, and they’re also a lot of fun. 🙂

5) Starflight by Melissa Landers. A space adventure following a teenage girl making her way to the outskirts of the known galaxy in order to get a better chance of finding a job, and the former classmate she runs into who hires her as his indentured servant for the duration of the trip, in return for the price of her ticket – but for not-so-noble purposes. Another book that I read almost as soon as I brought it home, and that I really loved. 😀 My book-sense was really on-the-mark in April!

6) Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr. Lastly, I also picked up the second book in the Wicked Lovely series (though I didn’t realise that it was part of a series at the time), mostly because it’d been sitting on the shelf at the second-hand bookshop where I work for several weeks, and it was making me sad that no-one else had bought it… ^^’ This is a paranormal romance series about fairies, I believe, but the summary sounds intriguingly dark. I’m looking forward to reading this soon, hopefully (but first I need to pick up Wicked Lovely…).