November & December Haul

I’ve divided this post into two sections; the first for books that I bought myself, and the second for books that were Christmas presents. That second section, by the way, is almost twice as long as the first, because (amazingly) my book-buying ban (or “book-buying restriction”; I’m allowing myself to buy one book for every five that I read) is going really well at the moment! 😀 Anyway, here’s what I bought in the last two months:november/december haul

1) Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. The sequel to Illuminae, which I spent the whole of 2016 eagerly anticipating. This is another deep-space survival story told through IM transcripts and data logs and the like, but featuring two new protagonists – Hanna and Nik – and showing another aspect of the Kerenza incident that was documented in Illuminae. I read this book in December, so you can find my thoughts about it in my wrap-up for that month.

2) The World’s Best Street Food by Lonely Planet. Something in-between a cookbook and a guide book, this book was one of the books we had in our new products range at Oxfam this year, so I made sure to snap one up before they all sold out. I haven’t tried out any of the recipes yet, but the pictures are really beautiful, and I love that it includes information about the countries where all these interesting recipes come from.

3) The Monstrous Child by Francesca Simon. A re-telling of the tale of Hel, the Norse goddess of death, and Queen of the Underworld. I won’t lie, I mainly picked this book up because it had a really beautiful cover… but it also had an interesting premise. I read this book in December, too, so I’ve talked about it in the same post as Gemina, but I’m also hoping to post a full review of it in the not-so-distant future.

4) The Graces by Laure Eve.Twilight-esque, but (deliberately) super-creepy story about a teenage girl who moves to a new town, and becomes caught up in the town’s fascination with a local family called the Graces – who are rumoured to be witches. Look out for a mini-review of this book soon, as I finished reading it a few days ago, and have a lot to say.


These next few books were Christmas presents from various (wonderful) friends and relatives! People don’t often give me books as presents, as it’s difficult to find things that I’ll definitely be interested in, but don’t already have, but everyone seemed to anticipate me really well this time around! I haven’t read any of these quite yet, but I’m super-excited for them all. XD

christmas haul1) The Dark Volume by G.W. Dahlquist. The second book in Dahlquist’s The Glass Books series, which I know basically nothing about. I picked this book out for myself, & mysteriously found it in my stocking on Christmas morning ( 😉 ), but I will need to get hold of the first book in the series before I can read this one.

2) Hyrule Historia. A thing of beauty, given to me by my friend Chloë (from SSJTimeLord and Her Books), which is all about the history, art and making of the Legend of Zelda series of games. I’ve been wanting this book for so long, it’s kind of hard to believe that I finally have it in my hands… ❤

3) How to Bake by Paul Hollywood. Another beautiful book about bread, which was given to me by my parents. I’ve started making sourdough recently, and this book seems to have a lot of tips that I can learn from (and also some interesting new variations to try). 🙂

4) Wild Lily by K.M. Peyton. I’ve described this book a couple of times before as “a new book about aeroplanes from the author who first made me love aeroplanes”, and I don’t think there’s really any more that I can add to that, except that I’m really, really looking forward to it, and I really, really hope that it’s good. (I’m sure it is.) This wonderful book was a gift from my aunt and uncle, Lucy and Mark.

5) The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman. This book and the next were both from my other aunt and uncle, Catty & David, and they’re completely unknown to me. From reviews, I’ve managed to glean that this one is some kind of magical-realism mystery novel that focuses on the relationship between a mother and daughter… it definitely looks like it could be interesting.

6) Rainforest by Jenny Diski. I know even less about this book, but it did come with a recommendation from Catty, who apparently really enjoyed it. Neither this nor the last book really sound like things that I would’ve picked out for myself, but I am trying to branch out a bit in my reading this year, so hopefully they’ll both be good for that – and getting to try new kinds of books is part of the fun of receiving them as gifts!

7) Frozen Tides by Morgan Rhodes. Lastly, the fourth book in the Falling Kingdoms series, which was a present from my cousin Laila. 🙂 I’ve been waiting to read this for a long time now, as I didn’t want to buy it before it was out in paperback… and now I have it! (Possibly) Interesting trivia: Falling Kingdoms was one of the first books I read in 2016, and Rebel Spring (the sequel) was the first book I bought. It seems oddly fitting that the latest(-but-one) book in the series should be the last new book I received in the year. 😛

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December Wrap-Up

December ended up being a pretty great reading month – in terms of both quantity and quality – despite being crazily busy at work and at home in the build-up to Christmas. I read a grand total of 5 novels, 1 short story collection, and 10 manga volumes – including several books that I’d been really excited for for a long time! And they most definitely did not disappoint~ 😀

Leigh Bardugo//Crooked KingdomCrooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. The sequel to Six of Crows, which follows a group of criminals trying to make their fortunes in the underbelly of the Amsterdam-inspired city of Ketterdam, and bring ruin to everyone who’s ever crossed them. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Six of Crows (though I still enjoyed it a great deal); there was a plot development near the end that I really didn’t like, and, worse, felt was completely unnecessary, and it didn’t leave me with quite the giddy, excited feeling that I had after reading the first book. What it did do was tear out my heart and stomp on it. 😥 The writing was wonderfully emotional, the character development was superb, and the plot was brilliantly complex; a masterfully crafted roller-coaster of a story, full of dramatic twists and turns. Definitely a worthy ending to a great series.5 stars

Kate A. Boorman//WinterkillWinterkill by Kate A. Boorman. The first book in series which follows a young girl called Emmeline, who lives in a remote and isolated community that’s plagued by a strange monster called the malmaci. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so I’ve already posted a review of it here, but in short: it was well-written, with an engaging plotline, likeable characters and a great, spooky atmosphere, and I had a lot of fun reading it. 🙂3 starsAmie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//GeminaGemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. The second book in The Illuminae Files, which all document an attack on a mining planet called Kerenza, but from several different points of view. Gemina showed the incident from the perspective of two teenagers aboard the Heimdall space station, where the Kerenza survivors were felling during the first book – Hanna, the station commander’s daughter, and Nik, an unregistered civilian whose family is running a drugs operation – and like Illuminae, it’s fast-paced and action-packed, and surprisingly emotional for being written as a series of data files. So, naturally, I loved it. ❤ Hanna and Nik were both great characters, and the story’s twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through… Illuminae is a tough act to follow (one of my favourite books of all time), and I don’t think Gemina was quite so good, but it comes pretty close. Needless to say, I’m very excited for the next book in the series.5 starsCLAMP//Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle vol. 11Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, Volumes 11-20 by CLAMP. A fun and energetic series about a group of friends travelling between different worlds (and meeting lots of other-world versions of characters from CLAMP’s previous works) in search of Princess Sakura’s stolen memories, which take the form of magical feathers. It’s been a long time since I last rad any of this series (several years, in fact), but I was surprised by how easily I was able to pick up where I’d left off, even though I’d been in the middle of a story-arc when I last stopped – the story and characters are all incredibly memorable. In these 10 volumes, the plot took a very surprising turn, taking the series in a rather dark direction, and I’m really excited to see how this new dilemma is going to be resolved!4 stars

Francesca Simon//The Monstrous ChildThe Monstrous Child by Francesca Simon. The story of Hel, the Norse goddess of death, and Queen of the Underworld, imagined as a teenager who’s despised by her divine family. Understandably – since this book is about Hel’s whole life rather than just a certain event – the plot lacks direction somewhat, and I wasn’t a huge fan of Hel herself; she’s rather an abrasive character. This was, however, really interesting as a character study, in a way that was almost reminiscent of Fairest by Marissa Meyer, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it, along with the writing, which was fluid and engaging.3 starsMarie Rutkoski//The Winner's CurseRick Riordan//Percy Jackson & the Greek HeroesTo finish off the year, the Holiday Booktubeathon arrived, and I managed to read two books over the course of it: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, and Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan. I’ve written mini-reviews for both of them, which you can find by clicking on their respective covers. 🙂

Upcoming Releases: Autumn 2016

Autumn looks like it’s shaping up to be an exciting season for books (October especially!); there are so many things coming out soon that I couldn’t even fit them all on this list! But after much agonising, here are the books I’m most excited to see in September, October & November!

[NB: All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 28/08/2016.]

Sarah J. Maas//Empire of StormsEmpire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (6th September)

The next book in the Throne of Glass series, which has been getting more and more exciting as it’s gone on. I wasn’t hugely thrilled with Queen of Shadows in terms of character development, but the plot was really great, so I still have high hopes. 🙂

Leigh Bardugo//Crooked KingdomCrooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (27th September)

I finished reading Six of Crows just a few days ago (as I’ve been telling you all incessantly), so it’s a stroke of luck that the sequel’s coming out so soon! I am more excited to read this than I’ve been for any book in a long time, so I’ll probably be reading it pretty promptly, too! My hopes for it: I’d really like some chapters from Wylan’s perspective, and maybe a little more of Jesper, too; they were the characters that I felt got the least development in Six of Crows (though, naturally, I still want to see loads of Kaz, Inej, Nina and Matthias! 😉 ).

Garth Nix//GoldenhandGoldenhand by Garth Nix (4th October)

To be honest, I know nothing about this book except that it’s a new Old Kingdom story. And I still haven’t even read Clariel (the book that comes before it, and which I’ve had on my shelf since it was released two whole years ago. But I want it anyway, and I’m sure it’s going to be brilliant – Garth Nix’s books always are. XD

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (4th October)

The illustrated edition, because it’s that time of year again! 😀 Re-reading Philosopher’s Stone last year was such a wonderful experience, and Jim Kay’s art was beautiful, so of course I’m excited to see what’s he’s done with Chamber of Secrets.

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//GeminaGemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (20th October)

Another book that I’m expecting to be beautiful. And heart-wrenching. And generally amazing. Illuminae was one of my favourite books from last year, and I really hope that this sequel will live up to it… I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed!

Honourable mentions, cut because I’m not yet up to date on either of these two series… and because this post was in danger of becoming far too long even without them: Magnus Chase & the Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan (4th October) and The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch (22nd September).

Ultimate Fictional Heist Team!

[A.K.A. The 5 fictional characters I’d want with me on the heist I’m totally (not) planning.]

I’ve been reading a lot of heist books recently, for some reason (well, two, but since that’s two thirds of all the heist books I’ve ever read, it feels like a lot), and they’ve all had such good teams in them that I’ve been daydreaming about who I’d take with me if I ever needed to steal a potentially universe-destroying artefact, or break into an impenetrable fortress. Fun times! 😉 One catch here: I’m not going to be picking any characters from the aforementioned heist books, ’cause that would make this too easy (by which I mean the whole list would be characters from Railhead and Six of Crows. With a guest appearance from Locke Lamora ^^’ ).

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic1) Evvy Dingzai (from Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic universe)

Apart from being one of my favourite characters in anything, ever, Evvy is also a stone mage, which means she can sense the presence of different types of stones, and (usually) get them to do what she wants. As you can imagine, this would be a handy power to have along if your heist team is stealing gems, or needs to get through stone walls… I actually had a hard time deciding between Evvy and Daja (from the same series, and who has a similar ability with metals), but ultimately I think Evvy’s morals would be less likely to get in the way than Daja’s.

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//Illuminae2) Kady Grant (from The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff)

So, we have a solution for low-tech security (i.e. walls), but in case of computers, I’m also bringing a hacker, and Kady is a great one – she spends practically the whole of Illuminae hacking into super-secure systems, and battling with a rogue A.I., which is (in my humble opinion) pretty impressive!

Rick Riordan//The Lost Hero3) Leo Valdez (from the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan)

Leo’s an inventor, and would be in charge of all the team’s equipment (and hopefully building some extras, too! Maybe a getaway dragon?). Also, he’s good at blowing things up, and if Six of Crows has taught me anything about heists, it’s that explosions can come in handy. 😛

Veronica Roth//Divergent4) Tris Prior (from the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth)

Say what you like about the Divergent books, but Tris definitely gets things done – she’s great in a pinch, and usually on the ball with split-second decisions, so she’ll be the team’s combat specialist… and will not be making any important strategic decisions, for reasons that will probably be obvious to anyone who’s read Allegiant.

Kiersten White//And I Darken5) Radu Dragwlya (from The Conquerors Saga by Kiersten White)

Which brings me to my last team member: the strategist! I don’t know how down Radu would actually be with a heist situation (his sister Lada would probably be much more excited by the prospect), but I’ve just finished reading And I Darken, and I was super-impressed by all his plotting and political manoeuvring, and ability to read people and situations.

So now I have my team! Next step: deciding what we’re actually going to do. Probably something with precious gems, in order to make the most of Evvy’s talents, but beyond that I have no clue… I’ll be leaving all the planning to Radu, after all. 😉

The Skyrim Book Tag

Guess who finally decided to play Skyrim? If your answer was me, then you’d be right! 😀 It certainly took me long enough, with pretty much everyone I know going on and on about how much they thought I’d love it. And guess what else; I am absolutely loving it. XD This tag was created by The Quirky Book Nerd, and I wasn’t tagged by anyone, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway – it looks super-fun! 🙂

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//Illuminae1) Fus Ro Dah – A book that blew you away.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff! I read this last year, and it made me feel so many things! I laughed, I cried, I nagged all my friends to read it incessantly… 😛 It also really got me into sci-fi, a genre I’d previously been rather leery of (and which I now really enjoy). I can’t wait for the sequel!

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone2) Dovahkiin – Favorite “chosen one” story.

This is probably an overused answer, but as far as Chosen Ones go, nothing beats the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. 😉

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Cursed Child3) Thu’um – A book that got a verbal reaction out of you (good or bad).

I tend to stay pretty quiet when I’m reading, but there was a point near the end of Harry Potter & the Cursed Child (during that scene between Harry and Dumbledore’s portrait) where I realised that the strange whining noise I could hear was coming from me. 😳

Sarah J. Maas//Queen of Shadows4) Arrow to the Knee – A book or series that started out well but ended up being disappointing.

Will I incite a lynch-mob if I say Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas? (Probably, but I’m saying it anyway.) The whole Throne of Glass series just seemed to be getting better and better as it went on, and Heir of Fire was close to perfection, but all the character-development decisions that Maas decided to make in the most recent book were a huge disappointment to me. 😦

Patrick Ness//The Knife of Never Letting Go5) Shadowmere – Favorite literary/fictional animal or pet.

I really, really love Manchee from The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – he’s the ultimate doggy friend. 😀 I like Angharrad (a horse who appears later on in the same series) a lot, too, but Manchee still wins.

J.R.R. Tolkien//The Fellowship of the Ring6) Alduin – Most frightening literary/fictional animal.

Hands down, it has to be Shelob from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I deal badly enough with normal-sized spiders…

Sarah J. Maas//Heir of Fire7) Companions Guild – Best literary friendship.

I don’t know if this strictly counts, since it did eventually become a romance (much to my annoyance), but one of my favourite things about Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas was the slow-burn friendship between Celaena and Rowan…

Susan Hill//I'm the King of the Castle8) Dark Brotherhood – The darkest story you’ve ever read.

Probably I’m the King of the Castle by Susan Hill, a chilling story about bullying that you can’t escape from, and authority figures too blind to notice it. Everything I’ve read of Susan Hill’s has been dark, but this one was pitch black.

Scott Lynch//Lies of Locke Lamora9) Thieves Guild – Favorite morally ambiguous character.

Locke Lamora! From the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. He’s a conman, and does some pretty extremely questionable things over the course of the first book (the only one I’ve read so far), but I couldn’t help but love him anyway! ❤

Rainbow Rowell//Kindred Spirits10) Wuld Nah Kest (whirlwind sprint) – Your fastest read.

I couldn’t say for sure (I’ve read a lot of very short books, very quickly), but probably something like Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell – an adorable World Book Day novella that I read in less than an hour.

George R.R. Martin//A Dance with Dragons11) Tiid Klo Ul (slow time) – Your slowest read.

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin took me forever to read, mostly because it mainly featured all my least-favourite characters from the A Song of Ice & Fire series… I spent months carrying this book everywhere with me in hopes that I’d crack it open, with very little success. 😦

Tamora Pierce//The Magic in the Weaving12) Tamriel – Favorite fictional world.

Both of Tamora Pierce’s fantasy worlds are ones that I love to get lost in, but since most of my favourite books of hers are part of the Circle universe, I’ll go with Emelan, where the Circle of MagicThe Circle Opens, and The Circle Reforged series are all set. The magic system is wonderful, the world is richly imagined, and it’s full of some of my favourite stories and characters… I really hope I get to read more from this universe soon! XD

Bonus Question:

+1) “Sworn to Carry Your Burdens” – The heaviest book you own.

A Dance with Dragons, which I own as a massive hardcover. All that carrying it around that I mentioned? My shoulders were punishing me for it long after I finally finished the book. 😳

The New Year’s Resolution Tag

It’s getting a little late in the month for Resolutions, but it’s still January, so what the heck. 😛 And it’s a tag; I like tags, as you’ve all probably figured out by now. 😉 This tag was co-created by Emily at Embuhlee liest and Shivii at Brown Eyed Musings, and I was tagged to do it by Chloë at SSJTimeLord and Her Books – thanks, Chloë! 😀

And now, on with the questions!

bookshelves1) Get in shape: Name a book that doesn’t quite fit on your shelf correctly.

The illustrated edition of Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. It’s too tall to fit on any of my shelves except my comics shelf (which is already full), so it’s been propped up against my TBR bookcase since I bought it, which doesn’t feel like an appropriate place for it at all! 😦

Elizabeth Gaskell//North & South2) Eat healthily: Name a book you feel was good for you to read.

North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Not only did I really love this book, but it also reminded me that reading classics didn’t have to be a chore – and I do sometimes need to be reminded of that, since they can be quite difficult to get into, even when they’re really good.

3) Read more: Name a book you keep telling yourself to read but haven’t yet.

Maggie Stiefvater//SinnerThere are hundreds of them, but the one that sticks out the most to me is probably Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater. I spent ages waiting for the paperback release, so that it would match the rest of the series, and that whole time, I was really, really eager to finally read it. Then I got it, and it’s been sitting on my TBR shelf, unread, ever since. Why? Not a clue. ❓

Tamora Pierce//Street Magic4) Quit smoking: Name a book you kept going back to even though you had finished it.

Street Magic by Tamora Pierce. I’ve read this several times, but it’s the audiobook that I keep going back to over and over again. It’s masterfully done, and I tend to switch it on whenever I feel like listening to something that isn’t music; it never gets old! 😀 Street Magic is also my #1 comfort read.

Patrick Ness//The Rest of Us Just Live Here5) Save more money: Name a book you got for a really good price.

Hmm… Recently, I got the hardback edition of The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness for just £5; The Book People has some really great deals… 🙂

6) Be more organised: How do you organize your bookshelf?

By genre, nowadays. I used to organise it alphabetically, but it just wasn’t practical in terms of space (which I kept running out of)… 😦 One day, when I have more bookcases, I hope to arrange them alphabetically again.

Kate Beaton//The Princess & the Pony7) Be punctual: What’s the shortest time and longest time it took you to read a book?

George R.R. Martin//A Dance with DragonsWell, it depends on the book. Books like The Princess & the Pony by Kate Beaton, or The Fox & the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith I can read in a matter of minutes. On the other hand, it took me several months to get through A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

8) Go out more: What book made you isolate yourself from the outside world?

George R.R. Martin//A Game of ThronesThe A Song of Ice & Fire series by George R.R. Martin! (Well, most of them.) I read the first four books in this series in rapid succession while I was on holiday in Skye a couple of years ago, and thoroughly (and vocally) resented every moment I was forced to spend away from them. 😳

Rainbow Rowell//Carry On9) Be unique: What was your favourite book of 2015?

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//IlluminaeEither Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, or Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff! I talked a lot about why in my 2015 favourites post. 🙂

10) Be more personal: What book are you waiting for most this year?

Den Patrick//The Girl on the Liar's ThroneAt the moment, most of my excitement is for The Girl on the Liar’s Throne by Den Patrick (which is, thankfully, coming out in just a few days). The last book in the series left off on such a tense note that I’ve been dying to know what happens next since the moment I finished it!

David Mitchell//Cloud Atlas11) Really, resolutions?: What book do you promise to read next this year?

Haha. I’ve written a whole list of them – which you can read here – but of the books on it, the one I most want to read soon is probably Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

December Wrap-Up

My first post of 2016! (Though I’ll probably still be talking about last year – and isn’t that odd to say? – for a little while longer.) I read nine books in December, which wasn’t my best reading month in 2015, but what it lacked in quantity, it definitely made up for in quality! 😀 And my reading was also pretty sci-fi-heavy, which isn’t something that’s ever happened to me before… But anyway, on to the books:

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//IlluminaeIlluminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. A sci-fi thriller that follows two teenagers who – after being evacuated from an illegal mining planet that was under attack – are attempting to reach safety with a group of damaged ships, and pursued by their attackers, whose ship is in significantly better shape than theirs. Interestingly, this story is told almost entirely in the form of data files and IM transcripts, and the such, which I was initially worried that I would find off-putting, but somehow it didn’t make me feel distant from the characters at all (and actually, since the files had personal details of everyone on board, I think it actually made the characters seem more real to me, not less). In terms of the story itself, it was fantastic, and tense, and full of surprises, and incredibly powerfully written. I would definitely recommend this, even for people like me who aren’t generally fans of sci-fi.5+ starsChristine Pope//Blood Will TellBlood Will Tell by Christine Pope. The second book in the Gaian Consortium series, which follows the hacker Miala Fels, who’s in the middle of trying to break into the bank accounts of her father’s murderer (the crime lord Mast), when he and his entire gang are killed in a shoot-out – except for the mercenary Eryk Thorn, who Miala saves in exchange for his help getting off-planet. I’ve always found Christine Pope’s writing rather hit-or-miss, but this is definitely one of the better ones! I really loved both Miala and Thorn, and their relationship dynamic was great. The plot was also pretty fun (especially in the first half of the book), though nothing special in itself – the romance is definitely the selling point for this series.4 starsLauren Oliver//Before I FallBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver. A contemporary novel that I’ve been meaning to read for the longest time… It’s about a teenage girl called Sam, who dies in a car accident on her way home from a party one night – and then wakes up again (and again, and again), the morning before it happened. Time loops have, of course, been done to death in literature, but I found that I really liked Oliver’s take on it: Every time Sam relives her last day, she does things a little differently, and learns new things about herself, and the people around her, and this allowed for some really incredible character development. The characters themselves were brilliant – they were very realistically portrayed, and I found that I actually really liked all of them, even though most of Sam’s friends (and even Sam herself) aren’t always the most likeable people. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending (not because it was bad, but because it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to), but overall, it was an interesting and enjoyable read. I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can read by following this link.4 stars

Christine Pope//The Mandala ManeuverThe Mandala Maneuver by Christine Pope. The fourth book in the Gaian Consortium series (which is a companion series, and doesn’t need to be read chronologically), following a human diplomat called Alexa, whose shuttle is attacked, stranding her on the strange, inhospitable planet of Mandala with Lirzhan, the Zhore ambassador – but very soon they discover that not all is as it seems on Mandala. This was one of the less interesting books in the series, though the plot initially seemed to have some promise. Unfortunately Alexa and Lirzhan were both rather bland, which rather killed the story for me. :/ I might have enjoyed this more, however, if I’d read it before I read Breath of Life (the first book in the series, which is also about a human-Zhore couple), but the characters and relationship in The Mandala Maneuver felt very similar to in Breath of Life.2 starsMarissa Meyer//FairestFairest by Marissa Meyer. The prequel to the Lunar Chronicles novels, which tells the story of Queen Levana, the series’ main antagonist. I was initially a bit nervous about reading this, as I’d heard a lot of mixed reviews, but – much to my surprise – I ended up really liking it! 😀 It was also my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for December, so I’ve written a mini-review which you can read here. 🙂5 starsMelina Marchetta//Finnikin of the RockFinnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. The first book in the Lumatere Chronicles, which follows Finnikin, a Lumateran boy who’s searching for a way to help his people return to their homeland, which has been taken over by a tyrant, and is surrounded by a magical barrier that kills anyone who tries to cross it – and then one day he meets a girl called Evanjalin, who swears that the rightful heir to the throne is still alive. I struggled to get into this book at first: The narrative took some getting used to, and Marchetta seemed quite fond of switching perspectives without warning, which could be confusing at times. The story itself is wonderful, however, and I really, really loved the main characters, Finnikin and Evanjalin, and although the big reveal near the end of the story didn’t exactly take me by surprise, it was so well-executed that I found that I didn’t really mind. Even Froi grew on me, which is fortunate, since he’s apparently the main character in the second book… ^^’ And, as with many slow-burn fantasy books, I got a lot more invested as the story went on – for the last 200 pages or so, I had real difficulty putting it down!5 starsTakashi Hiraide//The Guest CatThe Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide. A short novel about a couple who befriend their neighbours’ cat, Chibi, and how she changes their lives and way of thinking. An enjoyable story, though I’m not really sure how to explain it… It was slow-paced, meandering and quite whimsical, but I found myself liking all the characters a lot. This isn’t the kind of book I’d usually read, but was still definitely worth reading, and I’d recommend it for fans of literary fiction.3 starsMarissa Meyer//WinterWinter by Marissa Meyer. The fourth and final book in the Lunar Chronicles series, and the first book I completed for the Holiday Booktubeathon (for which I didn’t write a dedicated wrap-up because I was too pressed for time…). Obviously, anything I could say about the plot would make this place spoiler central, so I won’t, but I can talk about the characters, who were all wonderful. Scarlet and Wolf, in particular, really shone through in this book, which was something of a surprise to me, as they have, until now, been my least-favourite (main) characters in the series – and I also really liked the friendship between Scarlet and Winter. Winter herself wasn’t quite as awe-inspiringly crazy as she appeared to be at the end of Cress, but I still absolutely loved her. 😀 Getting to know Jacin a bit better was also wonderful, as were all the returning characters… My only real complaint about this book is that I wish it had been longer (and since it was already over 800 pages, that complaint seems a little unreasonable), so I’m definitely going to be getting the novella bind-up, Stars Above, when it’s out, as it apparently contains an epilogue-type story (amongst others, of course).5 stars

Emma Mills//First & ThenFirst & Then by Emma Mills. A contemporary romance that’s half Pride & Prejudice, and half Friday Night Lights: It follows a girl called Devon in her last year of high school, as she copes with: college applications; her younger cousin, Foster, coming to live with her; an embarrassing, long-time crush on her best friend Cas; and her developing feelings for Ezra, the captain and star of the school football team. I’ve never been a huge fan of American football, and since I’d heard this book compared to Friday Night Lights, I suspected that it’d be fairly central to the plot, but although it was undoubtedly important to the story, I found that it felt more like a backdrop to everything else that was going on, which I liked; I definitely wouldn’t recommend that anyone read this book purely for the football aspect. As for the aforementioned “everything else”, it was all really great. I loved Devon, and really identified with her; Foster was adorable, and their relationship progression was both realistic and incredibly sweet; Ezra – the Mr. Darcy of the story – was a wonderful combination of swoon-worthy and socially-awkward (my favourite kind of love interest! 😉 ). It was a shame that the book wasn’t longer (my copy is 267 pages long), however, as I would’ve liked to have seen more of Emir – a character who showed up at the beginning, then disappeared until near the end, when he became surprisingly important to the plot – and also of Ezra and Devon as a couple.5 stars