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

Advertisements

February – April Haul

Good news, everyone: My book-buying ban (/restriction) is going super-well! So I only have five new books to show you even though it’s been three months since my last haul (one of which was a gift, so I’ve only actually bought four). 😀 They are:

1) Starfall by Melissa Landers. The sequel to Starflight (and final book in the duology), an epic space-pirate adventure that I read around this time last year. This book will focus on two of my favourite supporting characters – Cassie and Kane – from its predecessor, and will hopefully be just as amazing (if not more so).

2) Darcy’s Story by Janet Aylmer. A re-telling of Pride & Prejudice from Darcy’s perspective, which I picked up on a whim in March, and read pretty much immediately. I wasn’t expecting much more than a few hours of fun from this book, but it actually turned out to be surprisingly well-written, as well. 🙂 (I doubt I’ll be holding onto it for long, though.)

3) The Tower of the Swallow by Andrzej Sapkowski. The penultimate book in the Witcher series, which I’ve been obsessing over since late last year – and definitely one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. I’m dying to know what happens next, but am also resolved not to read The Lady of the Lake until it’s available in paperback… so this year is looking to be a particularly suspenseful one in Witcher-land. 😉

4) The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke. A standalone novel that follows a girl called Cat Novak through her life, and in particular her unusual relationship with Finn, an android whom her father programmed to act as her tutor when she was young. This is a book that I’ve had my eye on for quite some time, but it turned out to be not at all what I was expecting – in the best possible sense. 🙂 I’ve written a proper review of this book, which you can find here. (And many thanks to my aunt, Lucy, who gave me this book as a belated Christmas present!)

5) Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. This last book I just bought a couple of days ago, and I don’t actually know all that much about it, but the blurb sounded rather Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell-y in premise (a court sorcerer who travels to Fairyland in order to find out why magic has started to disappear)… though of course Sorcerer to the Crown is considerably less dense (as is the case with most books). It’s the first book in the new Sorcerer Royal series, and I’m looking forward to reading it soon!

April Wrap-Up

Not my greatest reading month in terms of quantity, but pretty impressive in terms of quality! 😉 Also, as I now appreciate more fully, non-fiction can be pretty time-consuming, even when you’re enjoying it… So in April I read a total of two novels, and one academic book. Here’s what I thought of them:

The Tower of the Swallow by Andrzej Sapkowski. The sixth book in the Witcher series (and the fourth of the novels which make up the Saga of the Witcher), in which Geralt and his companions continue their search for Ciri, as do several other interested parties, most of whom have less-than-noble designs. Obviously there’s not much I can say about the plot, but it continues to thicken, and I’m simultaneously dreading and anticipating reading the next (and final!) book in the series!

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. The first book in Riordan’s most recent Percy Jackson-verse series, The Trials of Apollo, which follows the god Apollo after he’s been turned into a mortal teenager by Zeus. I just about managed to scrape together a review of this book (which I liked a lot, though perhaps not so much as I have previous books from this universe); you can find it here. 🙂Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks. My Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, which is an exploration/study of Deaf culture and Sign Language (amongst other things). It’s rare that I foray into the world of non-fiction, but this made for an interesting read, even though much of it was completely over my head. You can find my full review here.

Upcoming Releases: Spring 2017

At long last, winter is drawing to a close! Goodbye, sniffles! Goodbye, bitterly cold rain! Hello, slightly-warmer-but-no-less-wet rain! … 😛 But whatever the weather, there’s definitely looking to be some really great books coming up this spring. XD Here are a few of the ones I’m most excited for in March, April & May:

[All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 25/02/2017.]

Andrzej Sapkowski//Lady of the LakeThe Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski (16th March)

The seventh and final book in the Witcher series, which follows the mutated monster-hunter, Geralt of Rivia, and is now being officially released in English. I probably won’t be picking this one up straight away – even though I’m really eager to see how this series will end – as I expect it will initially be released as a large-format paperback, & I’d rather get it when it’s available in standard size (to match the rest of my copies of this series), but I’ll have to wait and see if I’m able to hold out for what will likely end up being around a year… ^^’ Excitement level: 9/10

Laini Taylor//Strange the DreamerStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (28th March)

This is something of a wildcard for me, as I still haven’t read anything by Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke & Bone has been sitting on my high-priority shelf for quite some time, but somehowI never seem to get round to actually picking it up), yet the more I learn about it, the more intrigued I become. It will be the first book in a new series, and from what I can tell, it seems to be a fantasy-mystery story featuring gods, heroes, and an Atlantis-style lost city – all things that appeal to me greatly! Excitement level: 7/10

Brian K. Vaughan//Saga vol. 7Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan (4th April)

The latest volume in the epic space odyssey that is Saga – a story about two lovers from warring races, who are running from basically the entire universe in order to protect their daughter; the living evidence of a love that both their cultures find abominable. The story, the art (by Fiona Staples), and the characters in this series are all incredible, and it only seems to be getting better as it goes on. Highly recommended. 😀 Excitement level: 7/10

As a side-note, the deluxe edition of volumes 4 to 6, entitled Saga, Book 2, is also due to be released just a month afterwards (2nd May), and I will probably also be picking that up as a treat to myself. 😉 I already own volumes 4 & 5, but I love the way the deluxe editions are put together, and the concept art and author’s notes are a really nice extra. Excitement level: 8/10

Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Wings & RuinA Court of Wings & Ruin by Sarah J. Maas (2nd May)

The third book in the A Court of Thorns & Roses series, which follows a young woman called Feyre, who one day kills a faerie while she’s out hunting, and is forced to come and live in the Spring Court in order to atone. Little does she know, she’s actually there in hopes that – at long last – she will be the human who is able to break the curse that the High Lord and his entire Court are suffering from. The first book is primarily a Beauty & the Beast retelling, but with the release of A Court of Mist & Fury, the series has now moved drastically away from its source material… Recently, I’ve developed something of a love-hate relationship with Maas’ books, but I did really end up enjoying A Court of Mist & Fury, so I’m reasonably optimistic about this one, too – though still somewhat nervous. Excitement level: 7/10

Fairytale Features: Beauty & the Beast

fairytale features

The tale of Beauty & the Beast (originally called La Belle et la Bête) is probably familiar to most people: One night, a merchant gets lost in a forest during a terrible storm, and finds shelter in a great palace, where he is offered food and drink and a warm place to sleep. The next morning, on his way out, he picks a flower for his daughter, Beauty – only to be set upon by a terrifying Beast, who accuses the merchant of stealing his most precious possession. The merchant is allowed to leave, but only after promising that he will send his daughter to the palace instead. Over time, Beauty ends up falling in love with the Beast, and through her love, the curse that had transformed him into a monster is broken.

This story was originally written in 1740 by the French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and was influence by many different stories, including Cupid & Psyche (Apuleius; late 2nd century A.D.) and the Italian fairytale The Pig King (Giovanni Francesco Straparola; c. 1550-53), and may also have been partially inspired by the life of Petrus Gonsalvus (1537-1618), a Spanish man who became famous during his lifetime because he suffered from hypertrichosis, which made him abnormally hairy.

A more complete list of adaptations and retellings of this story can be found here, but these are a few of my favourites:

RECOMMENDATIONS

Robin McKinley//BeautyBeauty by Robin McKinley is a straight-up retelling of the original fairytale – by which I mean that the plot deviates very little from Villeneuve’s original story, though naturally both Beauty and the Beast are considerably more fleshed-out as individual characters. McKinley’s writing, however, is beautiful, and I really loved the slow, realistic relationship development in this book.

Christine Pope//Dragon RoseDragon Rose by Christine Pope is another reasonably straight-up retelling, but it’s also mixed with elements of legends such as St. George & the Dragon, where a maiden must be sacrificed every year in order to appease a terrible monster. In Dragon Rose, Rhianne (i.e. Beauty) offers herself up in the place of her friend, and is sent off to become the latest in a long, long line of brides to the cursed Dragon Lord, none of whom have ever been seen again after setting foot in his castle. Pope’s writing is not the best I’ve ever read, but I enjoyed the unpretentious nature of this story, as well as the way it played with the princess-and-the-dragon trope. It’s actually the second book in the Tales of the Latter Kingdoms series (many of which are fairytale retellings), but all the books in this series can be read as standalones.

Andrzej Sapkowski//The Last WishA Grain of Truth by Andrzej Sapkowski is a short story from The Last Wish (which is, in turn, part of the Witcher series), and manages to completely turn the tale of Beauty & the Beast on its head: Women come to the Beast willingly, enjoying their chance to flirt with danger, while their families are given a generous payment – and after a time, they leave. The Beast, for his part, is not particularly interested in breaking the curse that makes him a monster, as he fears that companions will be harder to find if he becomes less of a curiosity. Beautifully written, and fascinatingly re-imagined, this is probably one of my favourite re-tellings of this fairytale.

Rosamund Hodge//Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge imagines Beauty (this time called Nyx) as a young woman who – promised to the Beast (Ignifex, the kingdom’s evil and immortal ruler) at birth due to a bargain struck by her father – has been raised as an assassin, trained to kill Ignifex, and break the curse he’s held over the kingdom for the last 900 years. This was a fast-paced, exciting retelling, with a dark bent to it that I really enjoyed. Hodge also managed to blend the tale of Beauty & the Beast seamlessly with a whole load of Greek mythology – something that really appealed to the Classicist in me!

Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Thorns & RosesAnd of course, I couldn’t possibly leave out A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas – the book which pushed me to start writing this post (at long last)! In this book, the Beast (a.k.a. Tamlin) is a High Lord of Prythian, the kingdom of faeries, and “Beauty” (this time called Feyre) is a human huntress, struggling to support her impoverished family after her merchant father lost everything. One day, while hunting, she kills a Fae disguised as a wolf – but although she expects to be killed as punishment, instead she’s taken away to the Spring Court, where the High Lord is labouring under a terrible curse… and running out of time to break it.

There’s a lot going on in this series beyond the retelling that it starts with; in the second book, it breaks away from the fairytale almost entirely. The more epic tone of the story – the intrigue and politics and the looming threat of war – is the main thing that sets this apart from other retellings, and is probably its main selling point, but its also unusual in that it has a considerable cast of (well-developed) characters beyond Feyre and Tamlin, all with significant roles to play. [You can find my spoiler-free reviews of A Court of Thorns & Roses, and A Court of Mist & Fury here.]

[Navigation: INTRODUCTION | BEAUTY & THE BEAST | (More to come)]

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

November Wrap-Up

We’re drawing close to the end of the year now, which is a terrifying thought, and another terrifying thought (though I’ve pretty much come to terms with this one, now) is that I will almost certainly fail my Goodreads Reading Challenge and all my reading goals. 😦 I am, however, happy with the amount that I read in November (a grand total of 3 novels, 1 novella, a picture book, a graphic novel, and an audiobook) and I’ve definitely had a long streak of books that I’ve really enjoyed – one which I hope will continue through December and maybe even into next year! 😉 So, without further ado:

Elizabeth Gaskell//North & SouthNorth & South by Elizabeth Gaskell. A Victorian novel about a young woman who’s forced to move from her idyllic childhood home in the South of England, to a Northern industrial town when her father unexpectedly leaves his position in the Church due to a crisis of conscience. This was a re-read – or a re-listen, rather, as this time I decided to listen to it as an audiobook – of what has become one of my favourite books. I’ve already written a full review of it, and since my feelings haven’t changed at all, I don’t see any need to talk about the plot itself further, but I will say that I was surprised by how good the narration was (the version I listened to was produced by LibriVox, which is a volunteer organisation, and therefore all the voice work was done by amateurs). There were several different narrators, and although a few of them weren’t very good, for the most part, they all performed admirably, and a couple were even fantastic. Naturally, the inconsistency of the narration meant that I didn’t enjoy it as much as the written version, but it was still a really good however-many-hours of listening, and North & South is still one of the best books I’ve ever read.5+ stars

Andrzej Sapkowski//Time of ContemptTime of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski. The fourth book in the Witcher series (but second book in the Saga of the Witcher, i.e. the novels as opposed to the novellas), which continues the adventures of Geralt of Rivia, monster hunter for hire, along with the sorceress Yennefer, and Ciri, their adoptive daughter. I’m really loving the way that the bonds between the three main characters are forming, which is quite surprising since they’ve spent most of the series separated from each other. In particular, there’s one wonderful moment in this book where they’re all together for about a heartbeat before they’re split up again, which was really enjoyable to read. The characters themselves continue to grow on me, and the story flowed a lot better in this book than in the last, which was brilliant (my only real complaint about Blood of Elves was that the pacing was quite choppy). This has definitely been my favourite instalment in the series so far.5 starsYuri Herrera//Signs Preceding the End of the WorldSigns Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera. A short but excellent novel about a young Mexican woman who crosses the border to the US illegally in order to find her brother. This was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for the month, so I’ve already posted a review, but in short, it was a really enjoyable, thought-provoking read. 🙂4 starsJory John//Penguin ProblemsPenguin Problems by Jory John. A hilarious and completely relatable picture book about a grumpy penguin. Because, you know, penguins have a lot to deal with, too! The art (by Lane Smith) is super-cute, and the story is brilliant – recommend for anyone who needs a pick-me-up when it seems like the whole world sucks. ❤5 starsBryan Lee O'Malley//Lost at SeaLost at Sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley. A meandering graphic novel about a girl who believes that her soul has been stolen by a cat, on a road trip with almost-strangers. I really enjoyed the slow-building friendship between the characters in this book, and Raleigh’s internal awkwardness really resonated with me. I definitely feel that there’s a lot in this book to relate to, for a lot of people, but the story itself was rather fragmented; the narrative in an almost stream-of-consciousness style that didn’t exactly bother me, but stopped me from getting too invested. Also, I would really, really have liked to find out what was in the letter that Raleigh never opened – otherwise, what was the point in even mentioning it?3 starsAndrzej Sapkowski//Baptism of FireBaptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski. The fifth Witcher book, and third of the novels, in which Geralt sets out on a mission to rescue Ciri from the Emperor of Nilfgaard, and somehow manages to acquire a mismatched group of companions along the way. I loved this book so much! The story was on point, and has been developing so well; all of Geralt’s companions were amazing, and their interactions were hilarious. In particular, I really loved Milva, who is clearly the common sense of this operation, and Cahir, the Nilfgaardian who insists that he’s not a Nilfgaardian (for reasons that took me completely by surprise). I’ll have to wait a while before I get to read the last two books in this series, but, to be honest, it’s hard to imagine them topping this one.5 stars

Rae Carson//Crown of EmbersCrown of Embers by Rae Carson. The second book in the Fire & Thorns trilogy, which I’m slowly making my way through for the second time. I’m not going to re-hash my initial opinion of this book (which you can find here), but my feelings haven’t changed in the slightest; this is a truly fantastic series, and it only gets better as it goes on.5 stars

Alwyn Hamilton//Rebel of the SandsRebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton. The first in a new series featuring a gunslinging young heroine called Amani who’s desperate to escape the small desert town she lives in and the dismal prospects it offers, and finds her chance for something more when she crosses paths with a mysterious foreigner on the run from the law. I started out a little unsure about this book, as I’m really not a fan of the Wild West genre, and the idea of fusing it with a Middle Eastern-style setting seemed interesting, but not all that appealing – so I was really taken by surprise by how much I enjoyed it! The story starts out a little slow, but it picks up quickly, and I enjoyed that initial time getting to know Amani (who I found hilarious, if a little foolish). There was also a nice balance of romance and plot; there was a good amount of romantic tension, but Hamilton never tried to make it the story’s sole focus. Most of all, this book was just incredibly fun, and I’m really looking forward to the sequel! 🙂5 stars