Summer Catch-Up

Seeing such a long list of books makes me much more satisfied with my reading than I have been for my last few wrap-ups (/catch-ups), though I know it’s a slightly artificial satisfaction (but not entirely! Booktubeathon meant that I read a lot more this summer than I would ordinarily have); three months naturally results in more books read than one, after all… 😅

Also, I find myself liking this new format. It’s kind of labour-intensive (I had to completely re-code it last night, which was a chore), but I expect that it will become less so as I get more used to it. And it looks very tidy, which I appreciate. 😊

FAVOURITE OF THE SEASON*

LIBRARY SCAVENGER HUNT PICKS

29748925 Ann Leckie//Ancillary Mercy

JUNE

[REVIEW]

mary beard//women and power

JULY

[REVIEW]

robert harris//fatherland

AUGUST

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I REVIEWED

Adam Silvera//History Is All You Left Me

[REVIEW]

Catherynne M. Valente//The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

[REVIEW]

sarah prineas//ash and bramble

[REVIEW]

jack london//White Fang

[REVIEW]

Kiersten White//Bright We Burn

[REVIEW]

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//Obsidio

[SERIES REVIEW]

BOOKS I DIDN’T REVIEW (INDIVIDUALLY)

29748925Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Steve West]

The first book in a new series of the same name, which follows the orphaned Lazlo Strange, who has always been fascinated by the lost city of Weep, which was one day erased from the world, as if by magic, leaving few who even remembered that it was ever more than a myth. I liked Daughter of Smoke and Bone a lot, but this may be my favourite thing that Laini Taylor has written so far. I really loved both Lazlo and Sarai (the book’s second protagonist), and the supporting characters were all incredibly memorable, despite there being quite a few of them. The conflict at the centre of the book was fascinating, too, and the world-building amazing. I’m very much looking forward to returning to Weep, and am glad that I only have a month more to wait for Muse of Nightmares, which is unsurprisingly my most anticipated autumn release – and which I will definitely also be listening to, rather than reading in print, as Steve West’s performance of Strange the Dreamer was fantastic.5 stars

35037401Dragon Age: Knight Errant by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir. [COMIC; Illustrators: Fernando Heinz Furukawa & Michael Atiyeh]

A brief (and self-contained) story set in the Dragon Age world, about Vaea, the elven squire to drunken knight Ser Aaron Hawthorne – and, unbeknownst to her master, a thief. I’ll admit that I’m inclined to enjoy every foray into this world, regardless of length (or even story or writing quality), but Knight Errant surpassed all my expectations. It’s very short, but did a great job of making me care about Vaea and Ser Aaron, the two main characters (who are original to this comic), and although the plot is simple, it’s also solid, and a lot of fun. Varric and Sebastian from the games also had fairly significant roles, and it was great to see them both again (as well as Charter, who made a brief appearance). 😊 In terms of timeline, this takes place after Inquisition, but is not directly connected to the events of that game.4 stars

8146139The Call of the Wild by Jack London.

The tale of a domestic dog called Buck, who’s stolen from his owners in California and taken all the way to the Yukon, where he lives a much less comfortable life as a sled-dog, but is drawn to the wild places that exist just beyond the borders of his new life. This was a really interesting read! I picked it up a few days before Booktubeathon, because I was hoping to read White Fang for one of the challenges, and mistakenly thought that the two were directly connected, but I actually ended up liking this one a bit more, as the pacing was much more consistent, and the story a little gratuitously violent… Buck’s life in the North is a harsh one, but London doesn’t dwell on the brutality of it quite so much as in White Fang. Still, for such a short book, it packs a huge emotional punch.4 stars

Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the AshesAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrators: Aysha Kala & Jack Farrar]

An excellent, Roman Empire-inspired fantasy following two leads: Laia, a teenage girl who becomes a slave in order to spy for the Scholar resistance, and Elias, a Martial soldier who wants only to be free of the Empire. I first read (and reviewed) this book a couple of years ago, and my feelings on it haven’t changed in the slightest. 💕 The audiobook was a new experience for me, but also a good one; both narrators did an excellent job, though I feel like the communication between them might not have been particularly great, as there were several words that they each pronounced differently. It wasn’t usually too jarring, and the most significant pronunciation disagreement was corrected after a few chapters, but it’s something that really should have been addressed by an editor or director (or whoever is in charge of voice work) before recording… especially when it’s the name of one of the main characters!5 stars

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//ObsidioObsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff.

The final book in The Illuminae Files, which introduces two new protagonists: Asha, Kady’s cousin who was left behind on Kerenza IV when the majority of the population fled, and her ex-boyfriend-from-before-Kerenza, Rhys, who is now a technician for the invading BeiTech forces. As the conclusion to the trilogy, the plot of this book was much less self-contained than the other two, and it wrapped up the plot really nicely, and made for an incredibly powerful ending – though at the expense of some development for Asha and Rhys, who had to share their screen time with the series’ previous four protagonists (or five if you include AIDAN). However, I do think that they were both very well-fleshed out characters regardless, and the Kerenza-based perspective that they both provided to the story was essential. The pacing of the story was fast and tense, and only became more so as the stakes got higher and higher towards the end… and although I didn’t like this book quite as much as Illuminae, it was a near thing. A truly great ending to this fantastic series!5 stars

Jane Austen//Pride and PrejudicePride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Lindsay Duncan]

The classic tale of Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy, who meet at a ball and absolutely do not hit it off. 😉 This is one of my favourite books, and always a joy to re-read, but I decided to buy the audiobook to listen to with some friends on our recent pilgrimage-of-sorts to Pemberley! (Or rather, Lyme Park, which played the part of Pemberley’s exterior in the 1995 BBC adaptation, i.e. the best adaptation.) There are several different audio versions of this book, so much deliberation went into the choice of this one in particular, and I’m pleased to say that I was not disappointed! Lindsay Duncan’s performance was incredible, and I especially liked her take on Mrs. Bennet. 🎶5+ stars

*Not including re-reads.

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#BookTubeAThon2018: Update 1 & Review

JUST FINISHED: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente.

Bored with her very ordinary life as a twelve-year-old in Omaha, September is delighted to be spirited away from her home by the Green Wind and his steed, the Leopard of Little Breezes. They bring her to Fairyland, where she sets out in search of adventure and fantastical friends – but Fairyland’s problems may be interfering with her plans far more severely than she expected.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this for quite a while, but was initially a little disappointed with it. I enjoyed the writing style, as well as all the characters, but found them to be flitting in and out of the story a lot more rapidly than I was expecting, and the story didn’t immediately grab me. (Structurally – and also thematically – it’s reminiscent of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a book that I like in theory, but don’t actually enjoy reading.) However, I got much more into it as the story went on, and by the time September met the Marquess I was fully invested; the book had by that point taken a slightly darker tone, and September had also found a companion who seemed to be sticking around. 👍

I really, really loved the ending, but my favourite thing about this book was September, and her relationships with the other characters she met. I’ve complained that many of the side characters were fleeting, but even so, they were still very memorable, and left their mark on September – and the characters with bigger roles were even more so. In particular, the friendship that grew between September and A-Through-L (or simply Ell) was wonderful to read about, and the inclusion of Saturday made for some incredibly heartwarming scenes.

With Fairyland, Valente has created a tale with the whimsy of Alice in Wonderland, the heart of The Little Prince, and the adventure of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and yet somehow entirely original. Her writing here is not quite as breathtakingly beautiful as it was in Deathless (the only other one of her books that I’ve read), but her unique style is still very noticeable, and adds a lot to Fairyland’s narrative; and Ana Juan’s charming illustrations make a perfect accompaniment to the story.

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Already started on my next book, which is Ash & Bramble (this post took me a little while to write). 😊 And also an audiobook for car time (An Ember in the Ashes) – though I was already halfway through that before the readathon started.

Books Completed: 1
Pages Read: 328
Challenges Completed: 3/7

#BookTubeAThon2018 TBR~ 💕

This year’s Booktubeathon comes at a fortuitous time, since I will be on holiday for the entire duration, and hopefully in the mood for a great deal of reading. 😁 The readathon is going to be from Monday 30th July to Sunday 5th August, and you can find more details about it in this announcement video – but what I want to focus on for this post is the challenges, which as always will be shaping the majority of my TBR ~🎶 So here goes:

1) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. This book has popped up on a lot of my TBRs in the last couple of years, but for some reason I never seem to get around to it – but maybe this summer will be the summer of Fairyland! This is my pick for challenges two (read a book about something you want to do; in this case, sailing, which I expect, though don’t know for sure is involved in this book) and three (read a book with green on the cover; it’s there, if only barely), and it also won the coin toss against The Princess & the Captain (which I subsequently removed from my TBR altogether), so if I do actually manage to start the readathon with it, then it will count for the first challenge (let a coin toss decide your first read) as well! Not bad for a less-than-300-page book! 😋

2) White Fang by Jack London. Another book that has the benefit of being extremely short, and has also been sitting unread on my kindle since I got it (maybe five years ago?). There’s a recent Netflix adaption of this, so I’ll be using it for challenge three (read and watch a book to movie adaptation), and due to its length it will probably also be my hat book (for challenge five: read a book while wearing the same hat the whole time), as it’s much too hot to be wearing a hat for any significant amount of time at the moment… 😓

3) Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas.Cinderella retelling (I think) that I’ve been meaning to read for a couple of years now at least, and which will easily tick off challenge six (read a book with a beautiful spine; it’s red, with the same thorn design & ornate font as the cover). At 449 pages, this is the longest book on my TBR, but I find that most Young Adult books are quite quick reads, so I’m not too worried. And even if I only read these three books, I still will have ticked off all the challenges except the last…

4) So, the final challenge is to read seven books, and I’m planning on leaving it fairly open. I’ll be taking my kindle on holiday with me, with its hundred-or-so unread books, and since I’ll be spending the last day of the readathon in transit, I also have a couple of audiobooks loaded onto my phone. The only two physical books that are possibilities are Women & Power by Mary Beard, which I’m hoping to read before Booktubeathon starts, but will otherwise be my first book of the readathon, as I need to finish it by the end of the month anyway (potentially thwarting the coin toss challenge, I know, but needs must ☹️); and Fatherland by Robert Harris, which was a birthday present from my aunt.

#BookTubeAThon 2017! | TBR

Guys, it’s Booktubeathon time again! 😆 Which means… a whole week of reading, and reviews, and challenges! (If I can drag myself away from my PS4…) If you’re new to the Booktubeathon, it’s an annual week-long readathon hosted by Ariel Bissett on Youtube, and always includes reading challenges to guide your TBR, daily video challenges and giveaways, a discount code over at The Book Depository, and this year there will also be a readalong, so that people can (if they so desire) all pick up the same book and read together for a day. I don’t tend to take part in much beyond the actual reading, but it’s still probably my favourite of all the readathons I’ve taken part in.. 💕

As always, I’ve tried to tailor my TBR to tick off as many of the challenges as I possibly can (and I hope to be posting reviews of each one as I go along), though, interestingly, it looks like that might be a bit more difficult this year than usual, as quite a few of the challenges are more situational than book-specific. If that makes any sense at all (it probably doesn’t, but you’ll see what I mean)… 😓 But in any case, here’s what I’ve decided on so far:

1) Read a book with a person on the cover.

For this challenge I’ve decided (after much agonising, because there are so many books I want to read that could qualify for this challenge) to go with Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes, which is a fantasy novel about a girl who lives in a society where everyone has an animal companion that represents their inner darkness – or something of the kind – which is sacrificed when they come of age.

2) Read a hyped book.

In contrast, I knew what I was going to read for this challenge almost as soon as it was announced: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, which I picked up ages ago after hearing so many people heaping praise on the series… and then never looking at it again. I don’t even know what it’s about, really (kids with superpowers, I believe, and something to do with a road trip?), but I’m looking forward to finding out! 😁

3) Finish a book in one day.

This is the first of the two “situational challenges” that I mentioned earlier (meaning, ones that are to do with how you read, rather than what you read), so I haven’t really picked out anything specific for it; it may well end up being Darkbeast, as it’s quite short, but more certain is that if I get this challenge done, it will be on either Wednesday or Thursday, as those are my two days off next week…

4) Read about a character who’s very different from you.

I was tempted to choose Now I Rise by Kiersten White (the sequel to And I Darken) for this challenge, as Lada – a murderous Transylvanian princess – is about as different from me as a person can get, but I thought it would be a bit of a cheat to pick a book that I’d already started reading, even though I’m only about 60 pages in… So instead I decided to go with Nowhere People by Paulo Scott, which is about a Brazilian law student (also called Paulo), who one day decides to give a lift to a young indigenous girl who he spots on the side of the road as he drives home.

5) Read a book only while outdoors.

This is the challenge that I’m dreading the most, as it looks like it’s going to rain for most of next week… Understandably, I’d like to pick something short for the challenge, but picking Darkbeast again seems like a bit much (especially since it’s going to be ticking off the next challenge as well 😓). All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman might work, as it’s both very short, and on my kindle (which has a waterproof cover), but I’m not feeling particularly enthused about it right now, so who knows.

6) Read a book you bought because of the cover.

Like most people, I’m drawn to pretty covers, but I was surprised by how difficult I found it to pick a book out for this challenge, as the only book I own that I bought solely because of the cover is The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, which I’ve finally decided to get rid of, after accepting the fact that I’m never going to read it… So I’ve decided that this is going to be another challenge that will be fulfilled by Darkbeast; I didn’t just buy it for its cover (it also has complimentary comments from my favourite author on the back, and the synopsis sounds pretty interesting, too), but it was definitely a significant contributing factor… 😅

7) Read seven books.

And all this leaves me with three more books to pick out if I want to meet the ultimate Booktubeathon goal of seven books in seven days (which I do)! But I figure I should give myself some flexibility here – and I don’t want to just end up re-hashing the TBR I did for my holiday in Skye last week! A couple of (very shaky) possibilities are A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. Or maybe a graphic novel? 🤔 I guess I’ll figure it out when I get there. 😊

[EDIT (22/7/17): The Booktubeathon starts on Monday, and will end the following Sunday… which is probably something I should’ve mentioned earlier… 😓]

Bookmarks ~ ♥

Like a lot of book lovers, I’m a huge fan of bookmarks, and have been collecting them for several years. I even have an emergency bookmark that I keep tied to my backpack, in case of… unanticipated books? (Okay, so it’s not likely that I’ll ever need it, but I like to carry it anyway.)

Anyway, in my post today I wanted to talk about a bookmark-related habit I have: Matching bookmarks to the books I’m reading. Every time I pick up a new book, I take a look through my pot of bookmarks, and pick out one that matches the book’s themes, or colour scheme, or even just the “feel” of the book. I don’t have a bookmark for every book, of course, but I thought I’d share some of my favourite matches with you all~ 😀

[You can zoom in on the pictures by clicking on them, if you want to get a better look at the pictures. And sorry about the lighting! I wrote this post in the early hours of the morning, and all the lights in my room are rather yellow… 😳 ]

The Handmaid's Tale + bookmark1) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood / Amnesty International bookmark. This is actually the pairing that inspired this post; I’m pretty proud of it~ 🙂 The Handmaid’s Tale is an incredibly bleak dystopian novel about a woman who’s trapped in a role that her oppressive society has chosen for her… “dreams of freedom” seemed like an appropriate slogan! The bookmark itself I received free (and at random) with a book that I ordered from the Amnesty International online shop.

Monsters of Men + bookmark2) Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness / crayon Godzilla (?) bookmark. I mostly just picked this bookmark because it had a monster on it, to be honest (though I still like the match-up a lot). Monsters of Men is about monsters of the human variety, rather than the terrifying-giant-lizard type, but it still works. 😛 This bookmark was another free-with-your-online-order one, but this time from the Book Depository (who, to be fair, have some really excellent bookmarks).

All I Know Now + bookmark3) All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher / owl bookmark. You might have to squint to see the bookmark in this photo, but it’s a little magnetic owl that I  brought back from Hong Kong as a souvenir. All I Know Now is a self-help book, which is full of advice and anecdotes about growing up, and I picked out this bookmark for it because owls are wise. Obviously. 😛 And they’re both yellow, which is an added bonus! (I am very fond of colour-coordination.)

The Boy Who Wept Blood + bookmark4) The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick / Wadham College bookmark. The connection in this case is more based on atmosphere than anything substantial, but The Boy Who Wept Blood (and its prequel, The Boy With the Porcelain Blade) are gothic fantasy novels, with a very strict, traditional-feeling setting, and I picked out this bookmark mainly because it looked the part. (And because I don’t own many books that are tall enough to not ruin this super-tall bookmark whenever I put it in my backpack… ^^’ ) The bookmark is made of leather, and was a gift that my parents got for me at a conference in Oxford.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making + bookmark5) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente / passport bookmark. This last book I haven’t actually read yet, but this is definitely the bookmark I’ll be using when I finally do! I wanted to include it on the list mainly because this is my newest bookmark, which I was left inside a book that was donated to the second-hand bookshop where I work… You should zoom in on this one, and take a look at the passport stamps – it’s pretty easy to see how they it fits with the book~!

But I’m sure I’m not the only person who likes this kind of thing! If any of you guys have any book/bookmark match-ups that you’re willing to share, then I’d love to see them! ❤

Holiday Reads

This week I’m heading off to the Isle of Skye with my parents and my sister (and my friend Chloë this year! 😀 ), which is something we try to do every summer, if we’re all available. Last time I was there (which was two years ago, as this time last year I was still living in China), I somehow managed to marathon basically the whole A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin – which is crazy; I have no idea how I managed it – as well as The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness and Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

So since Skye seems to be a good place to read epic fantasy, I thought I’d try to stick with that theme this year as well. The other books I’m taking are all summery contemporaries, since the weather’s been so lovely recently, and it’s really put me in the mood for them… Without further ado, I present my Skye TBR:Skye TBR

1) The Boy who Wept Blood by Den Patrick. I hope to have finished reading The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by the time I leave, so I’ll definitely be packing the sequel…

2) The Ask & the Answer by Patrick Ness. This will be a nice bit of continuity, since I also read The Knife of Never Letting Go in Skye (or, rather, on the way back). 😛

3) A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas. I’ve been super-excited about this book for a seriously long time, so I’m really looking forward to finally reading it!

4) How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski. One of the new contemporaries that I bought in June. I’m hoping to read this while the weather holds out.

5) Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. I’ve heard that this is on the heavy side for a summer contemporary, but I’m looking forward to reading it anyway. I’ve also had it on my shelf for a while, so it’ll be good to finally get it read.

6) Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. Sarah Dessen’s books are usually my first choice when I feel like reading something summery – they’re all so good! 😀 – so I’m really excited about this latest release. Though I’m also a little nervous about it, as I didn’t like her last book (The Moon & More) nearly as much as I liked the ones that came before it…

The other two books that I might take with me are Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton and The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, but I’ll have to wait and see if there’ll be enough room in my suitcase… And of course, I’ll also be bringing my kindle along, just in case these books simply aren’t enough~ 😉

T5W: Series I want to start this year

I made a promise to myself this year, that I wouldn’t start too many new series, but would instead try to focus on finishing some of the ones I’ve already started. That said, there are a few exceptions, mostly because there are several series that I’ve already bought but haven’t got round to starting yet. So here are the series that I’m most looking forward to starting this year:

Elizabeth Wein//Code Name Verity5) The Code Name Verity duology by Elizabeth Wein

I bought the first book in this series a few months ago, & have been wanting to start on it ever since. Alas, there are a lot of books that I want to read, so it got sidelined for a while, but I hope to get to it soon. It’s a World War II-era novel about a British spy who crash-lands in Nazi-occupied France, and to be honest I’d rather not know too much more about it before I start reading. The second book in the series, Rose Under Fire, is, I believe, a companion novel rather than an outright sequel.

Catherynne M. Valente//The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making4) The Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente

Another series that I started purchasing recently, even though I don’t know too much about it. It’s a children’s fantasy series, and I believe that it was initially just a fictional series in another of Catherynne M. Valente’s novels. I’m mainly excited for this one because Valente’s writing is so beautiful (I read Deathless early last year and was blown away).

Sarah J. Maas//Throne of Glass3) The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

Fantasy world! Assassins! What more is there to say? I’ve not had the greatest luck with YA fantasy (for the most part I prefer adult or children’s fantasy), but I’ve heard really amazing things about this series, and Sarah J. Maas has a lot of really die-hard fans. I do like assassin stories, too, so there’s a good chance I’ll like this.

Laini Taylor//Daughter of Smoke & Bone2) The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor

An urban fantasy series about demons, which is set in Prague! Once again, I don’t know all that much about the plot, but I’ve heard really, really wonderful things about the writing, and (best of all), it apparently has a completely satisfying conclusion! (Which seems to be rare these days.)

Rick Riordan//The Sword of Summer1) The Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan

The only new release on my list! This series is, as far as I know, another spin-off of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which is one of my all-time favourites. My hope is that Magnus Chase (presumably the main character) is in some way related to Annabeth Chase (Percy’s best friend and girlfriend in the original series), and therefore Percy will be showing up at some point. But even if there’s no Percy in this series, I’m excited for more of Rick Riordan’s writing, and for his take on Norse mythology, which I’ve always loved.

(Potentially interesting fact: Almost-but-not-quite making it onto this list was the Kane Chronicles, also by Rick Riordan, which I still haven’t read yet. But the potential for more Percy in the Magnus Chase series made this one slightly more exciting.) The first book in the series is The Sword of Summer, and will be released in October.